One of the biggest challenges of being a family caregiver is making sure your aging parent is as healthy as possible. This can be very difficult during the winter months as illnesses and injuries are more likely due to the weather. Here are 5 tips to keep elderly loved ones healthy this winter.
1. Prepare for the Weather
Elderly adults have a difficult time regulating body temperature and they often lose the subcutaneous fat needed to stay warm. Hypothermia, poor circulation, stiff joints, chapped lips and dry skin are all common in seniors during the winter. Family caregivers and home care providers must step in to help as many of these areas are part of daily self-care, where seniors cannot help themselves to resolve these winter issues.
2. Sanitation and Hygiene
The winter months always bring people in close contact with each other, which is the ideal environment to spread germs. Elderly adults have a weaker immune system, which makes it harder for them to resist and fight illnesses such as influenza, pneumonia, strep throat, bronchitis and the common cold. Family caregivers, home care providers, friends and the aging adults themselves should always wash hands, cover coughing and sneezing and wipe down common surfaces frequently.
3. Always Accompany Seniors Outside
Slip and fall accidents increase dramatically during winter due to ice and snow on driveways and sidewalks. Dependent elderly parents should always be accompanied when outside, preferably with you or the home care provider holding onto them at the elbow in case they start to fall. A hidden hazard that contributes to many slip and fall accidents indoors is when ice and snow are tracked inside and then melt, making a slippery surface. Keep shoes near the front door and watch for wet spots.
4. Practice Good Health Habits All Year
Another reason is that winter weather also discourages people from practicing many of the healthy habits they have. Seniors who like to take walks, for example, are often forced indoors when the winter weather hits. Reduced exposure to fresh air and sunlight can lead to a weaker immune system and seasonal depression. Aging adults also suffer in cold, windy weather. From their skin and lungs to joints and body temperature, an elderly body isn’t as robust as it used to be in warding off the negative health effects of winter.
5. Stay Socially Active
Winter weather can quickly lead to isolation because it’s more difficult for seniors to leave the house. Loneliness, seasonal depression, and holiday blues can increase during the winter months, affecting mental health and happiness. Seniors are dependent on family caregivers and home care providers for opportunities to get out and socialize, so that should be a priority for the whole family.