The potential for injuries, illness and age-related health issues grows during the winter, and elderly adults are the most at risk. Family caregivers and home care providers have an added responsibility to keep elderly adults safe and comfortable while putting their health first.
Here are the top 5 winter-related health risks for elderly adults, plus some tips on how family caregivers and home care providers can minimize the risks.
1. Respiratory Illness
Cold weather means that people are together inside more, making it easier to pick up germs. Respiratory illnesses are certainly more prevalent in the winter months, and elderly adults can develop serious health issues as a result. Influenza and pneumonia can lead to serious illness, hospitalization and even fatalities in seniors. To prevent the spread of germs, family caregivers and home care providers should ensure everyone washes hands and covers when sneezing. They should also arrange for the aging adult to get both a flu and a pneumonia vaccine each year.
It’s very easy for elderly adults to develop hypothermia, which is when the body’s internal temperature drops below 95 degrees F. Seniors may have difficulty keeping their body warm enough due to less fat and muscle, as well as lowered ability to detect temperature changes. If family caregivers and home care providers notice symptoms of excessive sleepiness, pale skin, mental confusion and slowed breathing in a cold room, it may be due to hypothermia and they should arrange for medical attention.
3. Heart Attacks
Studies show that seniors suffer from more heart attacks in winter than any other time of the year. Medical experts believe it is because the heart works harder in cold weather to keep generating body heat, which increases the stress on the heart. Chronic high blood pressure also spikes in winter weather. Keeping the aging adult comfortably warm and in low-stress situations is the best way for family caregivers and home care providers to reduce the risk.
4. Slip and Fall Accidents
Snow and ice are leading contributors to slip and fall accidents that can cause serious injuries to elderly adults. It’s not only outside moisture that contributes—many people track moisture inside and when it melts it creates slippery spots. Many seniors struggle with staying steady on their feet while wearing boots or winter shoes with thick soles. Still others need help with getting around when outdoors using assistive devices like a wheelchair or cane. Family caregivers and home care providers should always be nearby to prevent aging adults from falling.
5. Seasonal Depression
Because winter weather is often a barrier to social gatherings, many elderly adults feel lonelier and more isolated this time of year. They may have a seasonal disorder that can be remedied with sun exposure or a sun lamp. The holidays may fill them with bittersweet memories of past celebrations. It’s important for family caregivers and home care providers to keep the aging adult involved in events and activities that will boost their physical and mental health.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Home Care Services in Rochester NY, contact the caring staff at Caring Hearts of Rochester today! Serving Rochester, Pittsford, Greece, Webster, Canandaigua, Fairport, Perinton, Penfield, Brighton, Henrietta and surrounding communities. Call 585-245-0134.
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