If you are the family caregiver for a senior loved one, you know winter can be a tough season of the year. Taking a proactive approach to winter safety challenges is the best way to prevent an injury or illness.
Seniors face different risks during winter months than younger adults. They range from higher rates of seasonal depression to hypothermia from poorer circulation.
As we head in to the new year, here are a few tips you can use to make it a safe and healthy one for the elders in your life.
7 Tips for Winter Health and Wellness for Older Adults
Because frosty winters in many parts of the country force seniors to spend more time indoors and less time enjoying a daily walk or socializing with friends, it can lead to an increase in health problems. And just the cold weather itself can cause conditions such as Arthritis or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) to flare up.
Here are 7 steps you can take to protect your senior loved one this winter:
- Vitamin D deficiencies are more common during the winter. Encourage your older loved one to talk with their primary care physician to see if they recommend adding a vitamin D supplement to the senior’s daily routine.
- Peak flu season arrives in most parts of the country just after the holidays. Older adults are at higher risk for developing it. If your aging loved one hasn’t done so already, encourage them to get a flu shot. It’s one of the best ways to prevent being bitten by the bug.
- Isolation is a health risk for seniors who live alone. It often gets worse during the long, cold winters. Video chat services such as Skype can allow families to talk “face-to-face” all winter long.
- Icy sidewalks and driveways can increase the risk an older adult will experience a slip and fall injury. Enlist the services of a landscape company to keep your senior loved one’s sidewalks and driveways clear all winter long. If family finances make that difficult to do, call their closest agency on aging. They often have local resources for assistance.
- Winter gear is just as important for older adults to have as it is for kids. Be sure your senior has winter boots and shoes with non-skid soles. If they use a cane or similar assistive device, be sure it has an ice grip on the tip. Remind them to wear a hat and mittens anytime they will be outdoors in the winter.
- Storm ready pantry helps reduce the risk for an injury. By helping an older family member keep their pantry well-stocked, as well as have an emergency supply of medication on hand, you may eliminate the need for them to have to leave the house during severe weather.
- Prevent hypothermia during the frosty months of the year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older adults are at greater risk for it. Seniors make up more than half of the hypothermia-related deaths each year. Encourage your older loved one to dress in layers to help them stay warmer. Loose-fitting clothing made of natural fabrics is best.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created a guide you might find to be helpful in keeping your family safe. Winter Storms and Extreme Cold contains a variety of information ranging from how to shut off water valves if a pipe bursts to how to communicate with family during power outages.
Our final tip is to consider respite services if your aging loved one lives in a colder climate and you can’t be there to help keep them safe. Call the Five Star Senior Living community nearest to them to learn more.