Winter can be a dangerous time for our aging loved ones – one icy patch can be the difference between a leisurely stroll and disaster. Since the groundhog saw his shadow this year, and we’ve got six more weeks of winter, here are some tips to prepare you and your loved ones for harsh winter weather.
Dress for the Occasion
It goes without saying, but it’s cold out there. Even for those who have shelter, a quick trip outside, particularly for the elderly, can be dangerous. Watch for signs of pneumonia, flu or hypothermia. Older adults with inadequate food, clothing, or heating are particularly at risk for hypothermia, so keep an eye out for the warning signs posted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness and fumbling of hands. The CDC recommends that if your loved one is demonstrating any of these signs, take their temperature. If they are below 95 degree Fahrenheit, they need to seek medical attention immediately.
Visit with your aging loved ones to make sure they have everything they need for those cold winter days – not just coats, but hats, warm socks, gloves, scarves and winter shoes too.
As we age, a fall becomes much more dangerous. Make sure your loved ones have proper winter boots for the icy season, preferably thick, insulated boots with traction on the soles. When outside, walk slowly, and avoid areas that look icy. The grass may be safer than the sidewalk, which will freeze with ice after days of frigid temperatures.
If your loved one does slip and is in pain, seek medical attention.
Prepare for Power Outages
We might still get a winter storm this year bad enough to knock out the power – make sure you have protocol in place to help your aging loved ones if that happens. Stock your parents’ home with batteries, flashlights and battery-operated radios – a wireless cell phone charger doesn’t hurt either. Your loved ones might turn to alternative methods of heat, such as using a fireplace or a gas heater, and while these are ok for a short power outage, for any extended amount of time they can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. In the case of a power outage, it’s best to bring your aging loved ones to you for supervision.
Keep an Eye on Mental Health
They don’t call it the “Winter Blues” for nothing – at any age, it seems we’re all a little slower and sleepier in winter. But because it can be tough for seniors to get around in winter, they may find it harder to see friends and family, which can lead to feelings of loneliness.
Check in on your aging loved ones as much as possible and offer to give them a ride once in a while. And check out our adult day programs for fun and social activities.