November 8th, 2018 | Senior Health
While senior care and safety are important year-round, winter time and cold weather present specific hazards to the elderly – especially those that need dementia care or Alzheimer’s care. Memory issues, forgetfulness, and advancing age are both special concerns, but more so after the cold weather hits; when the elements, dehydration, and even slip and fall hazards could create special struggles.
At Legend Senior Living Assisted Living Communities, our senior care staff has identified 7 specific areas where practicing winter safety and caring for seniors’ wellbeing go hand in hand. Hopefully, our experience helps keep the elderly and those that need assisted living during winter time safe!
7. How to Be Prepared for Winter Weather with Seniors
Always make sure that there’s enough food, water, and cell phone power to last through a storm. This would include keeping plenty of canned foods, beverages, ready to eat meals, important medications, spare batteries, and flashlights (not candles) handy as well as warm blankets and clothing. Keeping phone numbers and other important documents available can lessen the burden that bad weather puts on your family – as well as having someone around that can make sure important documents and patterns of care are taken in critical times (as well as checking up with seniors and the elderly) before and after a storm.
Our senior assisted living staff has several tried and true winter prep suggestions too: having games and other activities also helps pass the time as well as keeping a supply of dark chocolate and other sugar-free treats. Making sure there’s plenty of sand or ice-melting salt near exits makes it more evident that the pavement could be slippery and encourages increased caution. Also, avoid cutting corners to save money on the electric bill! You and your loved one’s house should always stay above 68 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent hypothermia.
6. Space Heaters, Electric Blankets, and Carbon Monoxide
While it might seem wise to heat a small space with a space heater or put an electric blanket on your loved one, these devices pose serious fire and burn hazards! They’re easily knocked over or forgotten about – especially for seniors needing memory care. Extension cords can short out and lead to additional fire hazards too. Electric blankets can often burn the skin of seniors with Alzheimer’s or Dementia because they don’t realize the blankets are too hot due to reduced sensitivity in temperatures associated with aging.
As temperatures drop, we use our furnaces and fireplaces more and more. One invisible hazard associated with heating units is Carbon Monoxide – it’s odorless, tasteless, and toxic. It often leads to headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness and eventually death. To prevent this hazard, you and your loved ones’ heating systems should be checked yearly, as well as ventilation fans to vent out potential built up gases. Our senior assisted living facilities in [city/state] also utilize carbon monoxide detectors.
5. Winter Slip and Fall Hazards – Seniors Slipping on Ice Is a REAL Hazard
According to the National Institute of Health 3.5 injuries per 1000 people every year are associated with slips and falls, and unfortunately the injury rate is highest among the elderly. Slip and fall hazards are more common than you might think (and not all of them happen outside). Persons living with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and related issues may also have vison issues that prevent seeing ice on a walkway or stairs. That’s why it’s so important to keep stairs, walkways and driveways clear of ice and snow by using rock salt on potentially slippery surfaces.
Elderly wandering incidences can be especially dangerous coupled with slip and fall hazards in the winter. The elderly with memory care needs should always wear appropriate, slip proof shoes and sewn-in identification, as well as be equipped with a GPS device or other emergency locating device in case of emergency. Assisted living facilities like Legend Senior Living have handrails and locking doors to prevent slip and fall hazards – and have found that these precautions greatly reduce the risk of injury.
3. Sleep Routines, Eating Healthy, Dressing Appropriately, and Keeping a Schedule
The winter “blahs” are a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) due to a lack of sunlight, activity, and not being outdoors. Seniors (especially those not in assisted living facilities) often get stuck inside when the weather gets cold – causing boredom and loneliness. It’s essential to reach out to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to schedule visits and visit them often. Assisted living facilities make sure that the elderly are engaging with each other with social activities, hobbies, games, and events as well as providing immune boosting vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D to balance out the lack of sunlight.
When aging (elderly) adults go outside, make sure they’re laying up! Even a quick trip to the grocery store should be met with an extra, lightweight layer of clothing. Any exposed skin like the head, ears, nose, hands and throat should be covered with hats, gloves, scarfs and thermal underwear garments. Another helpful “hack” is to use Velcro instead of laces to encourage independence. Our assisted living facilities also implement the use of covered parking areas and indoor parking when possible (as it greatly reduces the distance that the elderly must travel on ice).
2. Hypothermia, Pneumonia, Dehydration, and the Elderly
As we age, we’re more and more susceptible to cold temperatures. Other factors, like memory, blood flow, and chronic illnesses can play into this, causing the elderly to forget that they’re cold. Sometimes, budget restrictions further cause aging and elderly to “cut costs” by turning off the heat – which can cause hypothermia in a matter of hours as older adults lose heat. The elderly must be especially careful because:
- Older adults drink fewer fluids but lose them rapidly
- Poor nutrition prevents the body from producing heat
- Medications, memory needs, and chronic illnesses cause forgetfulness and fatigue
One of the only ways to guarantee the care of your loved one is either being there for them all the time or entrusting them to elderly senior care assisted living services if there’s nobody to take care of them – as the effects of hypothermia, pneumonia, and dehydration are often fatal.
- Winter Exercise for Seniors to Boost the Immune System and Increase Blood flow
There are many strength exercises for seniors to do at home during the winter that are greatly beneficial!
Strength exercises for seniors include:
-Light dumbbell repetitions
Balance exercises for seniors can also be helpful when the environment outside gets slippery. We also recommend low impact aerobics like walking and doing stretches. Other fun exercises include walking heel to toe, using a chair to stand on one foot, wall pushups, marching in place, toe lifts, and shoulder rolls to keep yourself limber and agile.
Putting Senior Care and Winter Prep Safety Together for a Happy, Holiday Season
Family, friends and loved ones are more important than ever throughout the winter time. Home health care in the winter, caregiving, being safe, and checking in on your elderly loved ones is a team effort that takes practice. Along with this, simply having a buddy system and being thoughtful are the best ways to make sure your mom or dad is safe during, before, and after inclement weather and other family events.
It doesn’t have to feel patronizing, embarrassing, or imposing either – it insures that everyone is safe and happy. Besides, the weather can be fun! Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Years are some of our favorite holidays! Watching snow fall and kids play is very enjoyable too – as long as you’re prepared when it matters as the bad weather strikes.
If you’ve got any tips or tricks for winter preparation to share, mention it in the comments! Please share them with us on Facebook