Conquering Winter Health Hazards Facing Older Adults

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:

Fall prevention

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.

Nutrition

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)! 

Medications

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.

Dehydration

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.

Dry skin

Follow tips to prevent painful, itchy dry skin that can result when humidity level drops.

Mood changes

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? 

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4 Responses to Conquering Winter Health Hazards Facing Older Adults

  1. Pingback: Advanced Sun Protection Strategies for Seniors - eCaring Forum

  2. Assisted Living Directory says:

    Melody, my mother-in-law’s slip was a few year ago, and it put her in a cast for quite a while. She eventually healed just fine, but it was scary, immediate, and unexpected. Ice can lurk where you don’t think it is, and for ‘active seniors’ who like to go for walks, even in the winter, it can be a challenge keeping them safe. Thanks for your comments, and concern. Really nice blog post and advice. Keep it up Melody!

  3. Assisted Living Directory says:

    Falls are such a big one in the winter – my mother-in-law broke her arm pretty badly on a patch of ice that was lurking in the shade. Even after a storm is gone, there are still hazards.
    Nice writeup..thanks for sharing!

    • Melody Wilding says:

      David, so sorry to hear about your mother-in-law’s fall. How is she doing? Slips during the winter are so common and can happen in an instant. My grandmother fell and broke her ankle on icy stairs a few years back. Thanks for sharing your story — it’s instructive to others about what to what to watch out for!n

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