With winter fast approaching, flu preparations are on the minds of most carers. However, it is also a good time to consider some of the other ways that you can protect your loved one from the cold. Many of the methods may seem obvious, but some can make a world of difference.
The main dangers of winter for seniors
It might sound obvious, but one of the greatest dangers for the elderly in winter is feeling too cold. We don’t just mean extreme winter temperatures, but also moderate conditions and when the outdoor temperature drops below six degrees Celsius.
Cold temperatures are believed to suppress the immune system which may be one of the reasons why bugs like the norovirus and flu are more common in winter. For seniors who already have weakened immune systems, this makes the risk of contracting something severe quite significant. This is even more exasperated when an older person lives in a cold home, as this can lead to tight, stiff and achy joints, negatively affecting the mobility of those who suffer from conditions such as arthritis.
Winter-related illnesses are not the only danger, as ice and slush make pavements dangerously slippery and increases the risk of slips, trips and falls. This often leads to many seniors simply not going outside at all. Unfortunately, being housebound may cause various issues – especially if they do not exercise or move about enough to keep warm. Remaining housebound also increases the risk of loneliness which is currently a serious issue affecting the UK’s senior population; according to Age UK, 1.9 million older people often feel ignored or invisible.
Being elderly (65 and older) is a risk in itself, but there are other factors that can contribute to vulnerability at the coldest times of the year.
Senior adults (65 and older) have an increased risk of suffering from a health condition which is why that demographic is considered as the ‘vulnerable’ during winter. However, as with any demographic, some are more vulnerable than others. Concerning winter and winter-related health risks, you are most vulnerable if:
- you have a disability – especially if it affects your ability to move around
- you cannot afford heating
- you have a long-term health condition such as asthma, diabetes or lung disease
- you have a mental health condition such as Alzheimer’s Disease
- you live in a house that is hard-to-heat
What can you do to help?
In many cases, the solutions to any of these problems could help to solve some of the others. For this reason, it’s essential to give equal time to each of the following suggestions.
- Be prepared – check the weather forecast and take note of when it will be coldest. Be most vigilant on these days and make sure your loved one is well taken care of.
- Visit often – The winter months can be long and lonely, and nobody should spend them alone. If you already have regular visiting times, consider increasing them. Don’t hold back on impromptu visits; for your loved one, it could be taken as a pleasant surprise.
- Pay attention to food – While we may think nothing of popping off to the store for supplies, that’s not the case for seniors. Ensure that they have full cupboards and, if necessary, arrange for shopping to be delivered to their door. You may also need to keep an eye on their diet to make sure they’re eating healthily and drinking enough – dehydration is a surprisingly common issue during winter, but one that can be easily solved.
- Ensure that they have heating – Senior people can often try to save money by turning off the heating, or not inform you if the central heating is broken in fear of being an inconvenience. If they’re struggling with paying for the heating, then you can also look into obtaining winter fuel payments to relieve the financial pressure. Evaluate their needs and estimate how often they need their heating on and try and come up with a solution. This can be putting the heating on a timer, so they don’t need to remember it themselves.
- Identify a ‘hard-to-heat’ home – check your loved one’s home for draughty windows and doors, poor isolation and broken heating. Often, a senior may overly rely on a storage heater and need support in improving the warmth of their home.
- Make sure they wear several layers of clothing – wearing clothes made of cotton, wool or fleece are all effective materials for insulation. Making sure your loved one wears a light cotton vest, with a few layers on top and good quality winter coat, will make the world of difference. A hat that covers the ears and a loose, but warm scarf will also prevent them getting a chill.
- Keep them active – it is important that your elderly loved ones remain moderately active. A short walk or stretches will help loosen stiff joints and keep the blood flowing.
- Consider hiring a care worker – If you do not have the time or ability to check on your elderly loved one often, consider hiring a home care worker. Our professional and trained carers can keep your loved one company and ensure that they remain warm, content and healthy throughout the Christmas season. Let any carers know if your loved one is struggling with things, such as putting the heating on.
Better Healthcare can support your senior loved ones this winter
At Better Healthcare, all of our care workers are highly trained and prepared for any eventuality. You can rely on us to care for your loved ones this winter, safe in the knowledge that every need will be taken care of.
To find out more about how we can help your loved ones through winter, give us a call on 0800 668 1234, or contact your local office: