There is a lot of advice that goes around for older loved ones in our orbits when we see the first signs of winter setting in, and most parts of the country have seen some near record lows already this season. But there also are some threats to an older person’s well-being that are more a part of the relentless part of winter the longer the season tests us all. We know to help our older loved ones to dress warmly and to avoid ice and more.
Here are five threats to look out for as we all endure more of the season for sneezin’:
- Be vigilant about depression – The severe and sustained cold can make it for harder for older adults to get out and socialize as much as they can in fairer weather. The toll the isolation takes can manifest itself in a situational depression.” If you live at distance from your older loved one, be alert to changes in their demeanor, their voice, their affect. Call on your way home from work or after your lunch…daily contact can be very cheering.
- Winter is hard on their car – The human body is not the only body that takes a hit with winter cold. If you are able to drop by, check on your older loved one’s windshield wipers, the tire air pressure and the battery as well. Especially if the car does not leave the driveway frequently, the winter can shut down the car. Be aware of your loved one’s capacity to drive on ice and suboptimal road conditions.
- If the power goes down – Winter storms can take out the power grid and with it your older loved one’s ability to keep refrigerated food cold or even their own bodies warm. Help by checking to be sure there are enough warm blankets and maybe a battery-powered radio or charge stick for their cell phone. This may be another reason to check on your loved one’s with greater frequency as well.
- Vary the foods available – It’s easy to not visit the grocery story with the same frequency when the weather is the disincentive. Be sure your loved one has a variety of fruits or vegetables. Milk and fish also are a great source of vitamin D as well as leafy veggies. A varied diet also will help them feel the extra perk that can stave off the blues.
- When you stop by to visit, especially if there has been a significant snow accumulation, check around the exhaust vents of the furnace, the clothes dryer, the fireplace, etc. And be sure that the carbon dioxide and smoke detectors are in place and with fresh batteries.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.