Cold weather poses some unique safety concerns for seniors. During the winter months, seniors are at increased risk of getting hypothermia, and snowy or icy conditions can make them more likely to slip and fall. The chill in the air can increase the symptoms of arthritis and chronic disorders. The short, dark days of winter can also contribute to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), especially for seniors who have trouble getting out of the house and socializing.
Northern California gets its share of gloomy, chilly weather during the winter, so it's important for seniors, their home caregivers, and their family members to understand the risks and create a safe senior living environment. Here are some home care tips about how you can help the senior in your life stay healthy and warm this winter.
1. Hire a home caregiver to help around the house.
Who couldn't use an extra hand around the house? For seniors who want to continue living in their own homes, home care services can be a big help — especially in the winter. A home caregiver can lend a hand with things that seniors might find difficult once the weather gets cold, such as going grocery shopping.
For seniors who live on their own, having a home caregiver can also make the winter a lot safer. A senior living alone is at increased risk for hypothermia and falling once the temperature drops and the driveway develops a slick of water or ice. Having a home caregiver around is the best way to prevent accidents and health crises. If something does happen, a home caregiver will also be able to get immediate medical attention to the senior they're caring for.
2. Do a wardrobe review.
A big part of hypothermia prevention is simply having the right clothes on hand. Seniors (and their families and caregivers) should go through their closet before the worst of the cold weather hits, put warm-weather clothes in storage, and make sure they've got enough warm, insulating clothes. This includes plenty of long underwear, warm socks, sweaters, and other clothes that can be layered. Seniors should also have a pair of warm, well-fitting winter boots with good treads on the bottom for traction, a winter coat, gloves, and a scarf.
If you're a home caregiver, help the senior you care for go through their wardrobe sooner rather than later. If they need more winter clothes, help them go shopping for items that fit well and are durable.
3. Prepare the house for winter.
Houses require special maintenance in the winter. It's a good idea to get the heating system inspected early in the season, so there's time to make any necessary repairs before the worst of the cold weather arrives. Make sure all doors and windows are sealed properly so they won't leak heat. If there's a fireplace in the house, it should be professionally cleaned every year to prevent accidental house fires.
Preparing a house for winter can be overwhelming for seniors. Home caregivers can help by checking doors and windows for cracks, setting up portable heaters safely, and making any other simple repairs. They can also help make appointments for professionals to inspect the heating system and fireplace.
4. Put together an emergency kit for power outages.
Power outages in the winter can lead to low temperatures inside, so it's especially important for seniors to be prepared. If you're a home caregiver, help your clients put together a kit containing warm clothing, extra blankets, flashlights, medicine, and non-perishable food. If they use any specialized medical equipment, make sure they have a backup generator or plenty of extra batteries on hand as well. Talk to them about the importance of wearing layers, and teach them how to move around safely to keep their body temperature up.
5. Focus on nutrition.
Depression is particularly common in seniors during the winter. This is partly because people tend to get less sunlight — and therefore less vitamin D — during the darkest, coldest months of the year. To ward off depression, seniors should eat a nutritious, varied diet that contains plenty of vitamin D. A vitamin D supplement is one simple solution, while good dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon, eggs, and fortified milk. For seniors who dislike cooking or are unable to cook for themselves, a home caregiver can be a big help in preparing healthy, balanced meals.
6. Stay busy and social.
Between frosty temperatures and potential travel hazards like heavy rain, many seniors become more isolated in the winter, which can be dangerous for their mental health. It may be harder to exercise and maintain a healthy social life during the winter, but staying active can go a long way towards preventing depression. Hiring a home caregiver is one simple way to ease a senior's loneliness. A caregiver doesn't just provide company at home — they can also help the senior run errands or get out of the house to visit friends.
7. Practice good outdoor safety.
Trips, slips, and falls are among the biggest safety risks of winter, for seniors as well as everybody else. In areas that regularly get snow, ice, or heavy rain seniors (or their family members or caregivers) should hire somebody to keep their driveway and any other walkways around their house shoveled and clear. Seniors should also stay inside if it's slippery or snowy out, and when they do go outside, they should wear shoes with good traction and avoid walking through deep snow.
Home Care Services in California
Seniors, their family members, and their home caregivers all need to be aware of the potential safety hazards that winter brings. When the air turns cold and the nights arrive early, seniors are at increased risk of becoming injured, getting hypothermia, or suffering from depression. And since any of these problems can be life-threatening for seniors, it's important that families and home caregivers take steps to protect their loved ones.
With a combination of practical care and emotional support, you can help the senior in your life get through winter safely — and maybe even enjoy the season despite the cold. If you need a home caregiver to help with senior living, please contact Alegre Home Care at one of our many locations.