Oh the beauty of winter when all the world turns white. True, unless there is ice under the snow and it causes trips and falls. Or the heat in the house goes out and hypothermia is a risk. And then there is the early darkness and the long nights. The point is, winter can be lovely but seniors need extra special care during this cold, icy season. There is more to protect them against then just slips and falls. Here is a list of things to guard against when caring for seniors during the winter months.
Influenza is a serious illness that can be fatal in older adults.The more immunocompromised a senior is, the more dangerous the flu can be. A flu vaccine offers some protection against the illness. The flu season generally begins in mid-October and runs through March.
Steps and driveways can quickly become coated with ice. It is important to clean all ice and snow around the senior’s home, down to the pavement. Generously apply salt, sand or kitty litter to the surfaces. Then make sure that the senior wears solid, non-slip footwear before they leave the house. If a senior is at all tentative on their feet, using a can with a rubber tip can provide additional stability when navigating winter walk ways.
Winter is not the time to save money on heat. Hypothermia kills 600 Americans every year, half over the age of 65. To prevent hypothermia, the thermostat in the home must be set to at least 65 degrees. If the senior is struggling to pay heating costs, there are often numerous local, regional and state programs to assist with heating costs.
Space heaters can be very dangerous if not used properly. They should not be placed close to curtains or upholstery. Wood stoves should be used only when seniors can operate them properly. Regular conversations should be held with the senior regarding space heater safety, the use of candles and other incendiary items. It’s important to remind seniors of fire dangers and safe ways to stay warm. Also, make sure there are smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in the senior’s home, that they work properly and have fresh batteries.
Falling in the Home
Long dark winter days pose a risk to seniors. Make sure that lighting in the home is bright, small rugs have been removed and night lights are in place. If at all possible use motion sensor lights. Seniors may turn lights off to conserve electricity, resulting in dangerous trips and falls.
Winter Health Issues
Avoid dehydration. Seniors should drink at least four or five glasses of fluid every day. As the body ages, it dehydrates more quickly and drinking enough fluid will prevent against that.
Protective creams can help to prevent dry and itchy skin. As people age the skin becomes thinner and more fragile. Itching should be avoided because it may break the skin, creating an opportunity for infection.