The elderly are especially at risk during weather extremes because of limited mobility, instability that can lead to slips and falls, physical changes that make it difficult to regulate body temperature, and flu dangers.
With the extremely cold weather we’re experiencing across many areas of the country, monitoring our seniors is more important than ever. If you have an elderly friend, relative or neighbor who lives alone, call or visit once a day. If you don’t live nearby, call daily or ask someone to check in on your loved one. Keep emergency telephone numbers posted where your loved one and visitors can clearly see them, and consider equipping the home with a monitoring system and large-button amplified phone.
Avoiding heating-related dangers: In extremely cold weather, people often try to heat their homes using unsafe methods. Space heaters should never be used unattended, for long periods of time, on surfaces that are not heat-safe, or near curtains and other flammable materials. Candles should never be left unattended. Cooking ovens and grills should never be used as heat sources because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire hazard.
Guarding against hypothermia: The elderly are at risk in cold weather because the body’s ability to maintain a constant internal temperature decreases with age. In addition to sleeping ith a down comforter and using a heated throw or lap throw indoors, it’s helpful to dress in layers, paying special attention to hands and feet with warm slippers and perhaps even light gloves. Outdoors, it’s essential to dress in warm layers, including hats, gloves and scarves to warm air before breathing it in.
Preventing slips and falls: Tips to prevent falls outdoors include shuffling slowly to keep two feet on the ground, wearing nonslip shoes and keeping hands free for balance. Canes with large quad bases can make walking safer and easier, especially on uneven surfaces. While rubber cane tips and bases can help with stability on slippery areas, it’s important to keep surfaces free of snow and ice. Places to look for snow removal help include family, friends, neighbors, churches and senior centers.
Fighting the flu: Older adults are at greatest risk of complications from the flu, including dehydration and pneumonia, according to the American Red Cross. If an elderly loved one becomes ill, encourage her to see her doctor and take her if necessary. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three ways to fight the flu: (1) getting a flu vaccine; (2) avoiding contact with germs; and (3) taking flu antiviral drugs if a doctor prescribes them.
(This article by Dianna Malkowski, Physician Assistant and Nutritionist, originally appeared on the CareGiver Partnership Blog.)
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.