Remember, these cold temperatures can be much harsher on our aging loved one then on us. It is important to know the signs and symptoms if their body temperature drops too low. Some potential risk factors for seniors during the winter months include: hypothermia, influenza and the potential to slip and fall in the icy/wet ground.
There are several precautions that you can take to assure your senior loved one will have a safe and secure winter season. First things first, make sure they are dressed warmly (think layers!) Tip: Make sure the layers are light weight. Of course, you want your loved one to be warm, but you do not want to make them uncomfortable. Also, it is important to note that skin tends to become thinner as you age and additionally, certain medications can cause dry skin. These factors combined with cold weather could potentially be very painful for your elderly loved one.
Keeping body heat contained is a great way to make sure your loved one stays warm on cold winter days Tip: Invest in some mittens – not gloves. Fingers act as little heaters which make them the warmer option.
Stay Warm from inside your house
Let’s start from the inside of the house. Do you have any curtains or blinds? If so, please make sure most of those remain closed to contain the inside heat. It may be worth it to do some extra preventative protection around windows and doors through caulking. Make sure the thermostat stays between 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep warm conditions inside your house. It could be helpful to store light weight blankets around, to cover your loved one if they still feel chilly.
Tip: 30-50% of your body heat is lost through your head, so it is important to make sure you keep a warm hat on your senior loved one if you are venturing outdoors, or even inside the house.
Space heaters could be a way to keep a room extra warm (if you are finding it difficult to get the temperature at warm enough). Please use caution if you choose to utilize those though! Some could emit carbon monoxide – which is very difficult for a senior to eliminate from their body which could be dangerous. Make sure you have up-to-date carbon monoxide detectors, because this potentially harmful gas is difficult to identify otherwise.
A healthy, well-balanced diet
When caring for a senior loved one, their diet is very important to maintain their health. It also can be a way they can stay warm! Hot tea and soup is a wonderful way to keep your body temperature warm from the inside out. Tip: Make sure your senior loved one is still drinking 8-10 8oz glasses of water a day. The winter weather brings very dry air which can be damaging (and painful) to skin. Also, (of course) you want to make sure they continue to stay hydrated.
Outside precautions When heading outdoors, it is very important to make sure your senior loved one has nonslip/nonskid shoes on. These special shoes can help prevent a fall in icy or wet conditions. Tip: If your senior loved one requires the assistance of a cane, make sure the bottom of the cane is resistant to slipping as well. In addition, when entering the house from outside – it is very important to remove your loved one’s shoes. You don’t want to risk dragging ice and water throughout the house and potentially slipping later on. If you are planning on bringing your senior loved one outside, don’t forget to salt the entire vicinity where they will be walking. This could help reduce the risk of a slip and fall.
The harsh winter weather can be extremely difficult and unforgiving, but with the proper precautions you can keep your senior loved one safe and comfortable (even in the toughest weather season).