The crisp air and changing seasons are an enjoyable time of year for many. But for elderly individuals, colder weather can also bring added risks and discomfort.
But don’t worry—the following precautions as well as enlisting the help of professional elderly care in your area can help make this season a safe and happy one.
1 – Maintain comfortable indoor temperatures.
Set indoor heat to a consistent 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, close basement doors, block off cracks underneath doorways and make sure weather stripping is intact on windows to keep out drafts.
2 – Dress appropriately for cold weather.
Even when indoors, keep a blanket, socks, and slippers handy. Wear long pajamas at night and add extra covers. When going outdoors, be sure to wear a hat and scarf as most body heat is lost through the head and neck. Also ear a waterproof jacket or coat in case it rains or snows and change damp clothes immediately. Focus on wearing several loose layers rather than one heavy layer of clothing. Always keep a pair of thick socks and gloves on hand as well.
3 – Focus on getting proper nutrition.
Body fat helps you stay warm and fight off illnesses, so make sure you’re eating enough to maintain a healthy weight. Nutritional deficits—especially Vitamin D deficiency—is more common during colder months. Consume foods fortified with Vitamin D like milk, grains, salmon, and tuna.
4 – Be monitored closely by a family member or care provider.
Avoid leaving your loved one alone for prolonged periods of time. Make sure there’s a designated family member or home care provider available to check in regularly. During extreme weather conditions, have your loved one stay with a relative or friend.
5 – Avoid/prevent indoor hazards.
If you have a space heater, be aware that these can be fire hazards and learn how to use them appropriately. Gas heaters, fireplaces, and lanterns can cause carbon monoxide poisoning so have carbon monoxide detectors in the home and ensure they’re working properly.
6 – Be aware of and monitor illnesses.
Some illnesses like thyroid issues, diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, and memory loss can make it more difficult for your body to stay warm. This could be from an inability for your body to maintain body temperature or keep blood flowing normally, a loss of motor skills/dexterity, or failing to remember the proper precautions to take. Some medications like beta-blockers can also affect the regulation of body heat. Consult with your doctor or in-home care provider to establish a plan of care specific to your needs during cold weather.
7 – Know the warning signs of hypothermia.
For older individuals, hypothermia is when the body temperature reaches 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower—causing health problems like liver damage, heart attack, kidney issues, or worse. Older adults tend to lose body heat significantly faster than when they were young, and bodily changes that come with aging can make it difficult to regulate body temperature effectively. In fact, according to the CDC, more than half of hypothermia-related deaths are of people over the age of 65.
Warning signs of hypothermia can be cold feet and hands, pale skin, a swollen face, shivering, drowsiness, confusion, slowed or slurred speech, clumsiness, jerky movements in the arms and legs, a slow heartbeat, shallow breathing, or loss of consciousness.
Be aware of these warning signs and call 9-1-1 right away if your loved one is experiencing the above symptoms.
8 – Establish safeguards against accidents or falling.
Prevent accidents at all costs. Shovel the snow or offer rides for your loved one to keep them off dangerous roads. Make sure your loved one stays inside during storms and apply salt or sand to wet, icy walkways.
9 – Bring pets indoors.
If there are outdoor pets, bring them inside to eliminate how often your loved one goes outside during the day. This can also help relieve stress or worry over the safety of their animal.
10 – Have an emergency kit handy in your home and vehicle.
Include flashlights, a battery-powered radio, matches, warm blankets, extra warm clothing, a first aid kit, necessary medications, wood for a fireplace if applicable, and non-perishable foods in case of a power outage or other emergency. Also winterize your vehicle and keep items like a windshield scraper, tow chains or rope, jumper cables, emergency flares, road sand/salt, with you.
11 – Combat seasonal depression.
Because it can be difficult to get around and less time will be spent outdoors, seasonal depression is a real risk for many seniors. This time of year can also magnify feelings of isolation or loneliness. Be sure to check on family members as often as possible, and enlist the help of a trusted home care provider to make daily contact with your loved one.
The Difference Home Care Can Make In Northern Utah
Keeping your loved one healthy and safe is our number one priority at PrimRose Home Care And Hospice. Our skilled professionals can help with your loved one’s medical, social, and emotional needs this cold weather season and year round.