Winter can be a challenging time of year for older adults and their family caregivers. In many parts of the country, ice and snow force seniors to spend more time indoors and less time outside taking walks or socializing with friends. That can contribute to issues ranging from vitamin D deficiency to isolation-related health problems, such as high blood pressure and weight gain.
As the new year begins, these six tips can help keep your senior family member safe and healthy all winter long.
6 Ways to Protect an Older Loved One This Winter
1. Get a flu shot.
Flu season typically peaks right before or after the holidays. Older adults are at higher risk for catching it than younger adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people 65 years and older account for 70% to 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths, and 50% to 70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations. If your family elder hasn’t had their annual vaccine, help them make arrangements to do so. It’s one of the best ways to prevent being bitten by the flu bug.
2. Gear up for the cold.
Another important safety tip is to wear warm winter clothing. Make certain your older family member has a coat, hat, scarf, and mittens. Also check to be sure they have winter boots with non-skid soles. If the senior uses a cane or other assistive device to get around, install an ice grip on the tip to prevent it from slipping out from under them. They are inexpensive and can typically be purchased at a local pharmacy or medical supply store.
3. Have vitamin D levels tested.
Vitamin D deficiencies peak during the winter, and older adults are often at high risk. Encourage your senior loved one to ask their primary care physician if a vitamin D blood test might be in order. It’s a quick and simple way to determine if vitamin D supplements are necessary.
4. Create a snow removal plan.
Icy, snowy walkways are a serious fall risk for older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, falls continue to be the leading cause of debility among seniors. Having a plan in place to keep walkways cleared is essential. If the senior’s budget doesn’t allow them to hire a contractor, call the local office of the Area Agency on Aging. Most have programs in place to provide assistance.
5. Stock the pantry.
Having a storm-ready pantry allows a senior to stay safe indoors when a winter storm is blowing. Keep a box of staples on hand, including an extra stash of the older adult’s medications—no last-minute trips to the pharmacy or grocery store for either of you when the weather is bad.
6. Inspect the furnace.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is another danger that escalates in the winter. If you haven’t already done so, hire a heating specialist to inspect your loved one’s furnace and identify any potential problems. These tips for winterizing a senior’s home may also be helpful.
Spend the Winter at an Assisted Living Community
One final suggestion to consider is a short-term stay at an assisted living community during the worst of the winter. Your older loved one will enjoy the same services as a long-term resident, including well-balanced meals, daily activities and events, and transportation.
Call 800-304-8061 to speak with a local Senior Care Advisor for free!
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