Protecting your Aging Loved Ones from the Hazards of Winter
Have you ever gone to visit your parents or grandparents and wondered why their house is so warm? Well, as we age it’s harder to regulate our body temperature and that’s a normal part of getting older. This is also true for very warm days in the summer.
Here are six things to keep in mind as we enter the winter months:
When the weather begins to cool off, usually in October or November, make sure that your loved ones have a backup plan in the event of a power outage. Set their thermostat to a comfortable temperature and help them dress warmly.
As individuals age, we lose body fat and that means less insulation. Some health conditions can also make it more difficult to regulate body temperatures with age, including hypothyroidism, malnutrition, strokes and Parkinson’s disease.
It can also be hard for folks with cognitive issues to recognize when they are cold and take action. Remember, one can become hypothermic at just 60 degrees.
As temperatures drop, your arteries constrict more than normal and that elevates your blood pressure and pulse. Both of these factors can place a strain on the heart. Studies have shown that even small decreases in temperatures can raise the risk of heart attack.
As temperatures drop, discourage your aging loves ones from shoveling snow or hiking around outside, which only increases the risk of heart attack.
It’s a double whammy in the winter! Staying inside with forced heat or a wood stove is dry and damaging, but so is being outside in the cold weather.
Over time this leads to dry skin and something called ‘winter itch’, which is characterized by red, flaky areas on the skin. Winter itch isn’t particularly harmful, but scratching can lead to sores and infection.
To protect your loved one, consider suggesting a moisturizer.
If you live or work around people, you are most likely going to be exposed to common colds and the flu.
If you are planning a visit to your parents or grandparents and you know you have been recently exposed, consider delaying your trip. Older people tend to be very susceptible to illness, and they have a much harder time recovering from these conditions.
Also encourage your loved ones to get the flu shot!
Encourage your loved ones to ask for help! From walking on dangerous sidewalks to get the mail, to an attempt for groceries on icy roads, we all know that it only takes one significant fall or accident to change the entire course of someone’s life.
Equip your loved ones with the necessities; handrails, sturdy steps, walkers, canes, etc. Make sure they have salt and sand for icy walkways, and a couple of weeks’ worth of medications.
If you do not live nearby, try to get a neighbor to check on them daily.
The isolation of winter can really exacerbate loneliness, especially if your loved one is already prone to feeling depressed.
Look for opportunities to get them out of the house, or visit with them regularly – even if it’s just a phone call. The important thing is to help our loved ones feel less alone. Knowing someone cares can make all the difference!