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Alzheimer’s Symptoms Can Worsen Depending on The Time of Year

Seasons can play a huge factor in most anyone’s mood. Rain, snow and sunshine can alter your day in a good or bad way. A recent study showed that those who suffer from cognitive deficits, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s can be greatly affected by the time of year.

A 2018 research study done on over 3,300 Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S., Canada and France found that their cognitive ability -or their thinking ability- changes based on the season. Cognition was higher in the fall and summer and lower in the spring and winter. The study also found that there was a 30% higher chance of being diagnosed with a condition called mild cognitive impairment, which can often turn into dementia, in the spring and winter. So why is this?

Daylight plays a huge role in why this happens. When daylight savings ends in November that means shorter days and longer nights. This can make what’s called sundowning worse for Alzheimer’s patients. Sundowning includes an assortment of symptoms such as anger, aggression and irritation that happen at the end of the day when the sun goes down. So when the sun’s going down earlier, these symptoms arise earlier and can last longer.

Less daylight and changes in weather can sometimes lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression. Winter brings snow and spring brings rain so gloomy cold days mixed with less sunlight can cause anyone to feel down. Alzheimer patients are even more at risk for this because of the nature of the disease.

Other reasons why weather and the time of year can affect Alzheimer patients include altering their sleep schedules. Shorter days can cause Alzheimer’s patients to become confused as to when they are and are not supposed to sleep. Darkness can also cause increased visual problems for patients as well.

The study showed that these seasonal differences in Alzheimer’s patients remained even when taking into account other factors such as, depression, physical activity, sleep, etc.

There are ways to cope with these seasonal issues in Alzheimer’s patients. In most areas winter and early spring often mean colder temperatures. Therefore, the best way to fix this issue is to keep their living space at a decent temperature- not too hot and not too cold. Other ways to keep warm include heated blankets, draught-proofing and staying indoors when it’s below freezing.

It’s also important to try and prevent SAD. There are several ways to try and boost serotonin levels during the harsh winter months. Light therapy can be very beneficial. These special lamps are about 20 times brighter than any regular light therefore they mimic the effect of sunlight.

Regular exercise can also be extremely helpful. Not only is physical activity good for patients, but daylight improves their mood as well. Sunlight provides Vitamin D which is proven to boost serotonin.  Just make sure it’s not too cold and bundle up accordingly.

Another good coping mechanism is social interaction. Engaging with others is very important for anyone but especially Alzheimer’s patients. It’s a healthy way to exercise a patient’s brain and can even slow symptoms such as memory loss.

Even though Alzheimer’s symptoms can worsen in the spring and winter, there could be some benefit to this find. Increasing the number of resources for treating the disease in those harder seasons could end up improving the overall treatment of the disease. This study also helps caregivers prepare for these symptoms to better care for their patients.

 

Sources:

Alzheimer’s study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6122787/

 

https://dementia.livebetterwith.com/blogs/advice/why-winter-can-make-dementia-symptoms-worse

By |2021-03-18T13:54:20-05:00March 18th, 2021|Categories: Alzheimer's, Avalon Memory Care, Dementia, Memory Care, Senior Health|0 Comments

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