Winter can be a beautiful – but dangerous – season for seniors living at home. Freezing weather, icy conditions, and shorter days during the winter months can lead to a host of health and medical challenges for those aging-in-place.
Here are winter preparedness tips to help caregivers and healthcare professionals assist elderly clients in successfully managing seasonal health hazards:
Statistics show that 31% of falls are due to accidents in the environment and that more than three-quarters of falls happen in close proximity to the home. During the winter, icy surfaces pose a huge risk for slips and falls among the elderly. If your loved one has mobility issues, make sure to shovel snow and remove ice from walkways immediately. Suggest the person wear comfortable, anti-slip shoes. If they use an assistive walking device, such as a cane, place replace the rubber tip to ensure it grips best to surfaces.
Shorter, darker days can produce unsafe lighting conditions inside the home. To improve navigation and decrease fall risk, make sure there is not great lighting contrast between rooms that would it difficult for a senior’s vision to adjust quickly. Install night-lights in areas that need extra illumination. Remove clutter and loose rugs to lower the chance of tripping.
Large snowfall and inclement weather can make it hard for seniors to get around and take care of errands. In the event of a storm, arrange for a friend, family member, or hired caregivers to help with grocery shopping. Keep a stock of fresh water, canned, and dried foods available in the home (don’t forget pet food, too)!
Have a week’s supply of medications on hand. Check to see if the pharmacy delivers medications, in the event that you are unable to leave the home.
During the winter months, many seniors consume less water, which can lead to dehydration and increase risk for complications such as kidney stones, constipation, cold and flu, and even death. Make sure your loved one consume at least 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. Adding soups, fruits, and vegetables into the diet will help increase fluid consumption.
Follow tips to prevent painful, itchy dry skin that can result when humidity level drops.
Feelings of depression during the winter, a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), can adversely affect seniors’ health. Be on the look out for warning signs of SAD including: lethargy, changes in appetite, and sleep problems. Encourage social interaction with friends in the community, friendly visitors, and grandchildren.
What other winter preparedness tips for senior health do you have to share?