Difficulties and Protection Tips to Safeguard Your Aging Loved Ones During Winter
As winter is approaching it becomes very important for the caregivers to protect their loved ones from the potential risks and challenges of the weather and to help them stay as warm, healthy and safe as possible. It has been reported that there are much higher incidences of illness and injuries during winter among elders. The best way to protect your aging parent and to help them cope up during the difficult months of winter is by becoming aware of the health hazards (associated with winter) and to prevent them by planning ahead. The most common health problems that may occur during winter are:
Hypothermia: It is the condition in which body’s temperature drops down below normal. Many elderly are more prone to hypothermia due to less body fat and muscle mass, reduced ability to generate heat, malnutrition, strokes, Parkinson’s disease and some health conditions related to age, making it more difficult to regulate body temperature. People with impaired cognitive abilities may not be able to take proper action when feeling cold and can become hypothermic.
Heart attacks and Strokes: With the dropping temperature the incidence of heart attacks and strokes increases. With the decrease in temperature the arteries constrict more than normal which increases blood pressure and heart rate putting more strain on heart that may lead to heart attack and stroke as well.
Injuries due to falls: Any unfortunate fall can cause serious injuries e.g. spinal cord injury or hip fracture etc and can even be fatal.
Vitamin D Deficiency: Lack of sunlight in winter can become a reason for Vitamin D Deficiency and can raise the risk of developing osteoporosis, muscle weakness and even heart diseases. Vitamin D supplementation through diet and medication can help improve the symptoms.
Depression: Sometimes winter can make the months more difficult by exacerbating loneliness and making elderly more susceptible to depression. Frequent visit to them can reduce the chances of depression.
Winter Itch: It is red, itchy and flaky areas on skin and is more prone to people with skin eczema. Dry skin, skin breakdown and dehydrated skin can also be seen. Moisturising regularly can help reduce the chances of developing winter itch.
Infections: The occurrence of infections such as common cold, bronchitis and chest infection can increase with the decreasing temperature in winter. Nowadays, vaccines are available for adults and elderly to fight against seasonal flu and infections.
Below are few elder care tips for protecting them against various health problems (as discussed above) that may occur with the onset of winter:
Staying warm in the cold, frosty temperature is very important to prevent hypothermia and frostbite as well. Dressing warmly to prevent heat loss from the body. Having hot foods and warm drinks can also help for staying warm.
The dropping temperature tends to stress the heart more. Thus to prevent the consequences, it becomes very important to do warm-up exercises before doing any physical activity.
Caregivers are advised to ensure that the home has adequate insulation to prevent cold air from getting in and warm air from getting out and to check their heaters/heating systems or fireplace are working properly and safely.
The easiest way to stay healthy and prevent injury from falls is to wear shoes with good traction and anti-skid sole. It is also crucial to check that the handrails and steps are in good condition and are sturdy to prevent any fall.s Caregivers should also ensure that they have good walkers or cane to help them moving around.
Food acts as a fuel to keep us warm, thus it is essential to have healthy food for winter season. Chilly winter may alter the body’s metabolism and energy, making it even more important to winterize the diet as well. Energy rich diet fortified with calcium is proved to be highly beneficial such as oatmeal, soups, cauliflower, broccoli, milk and seafood such as tuna and salmon.