Winter 2018: Things Seniors and their Caregivers Need to be Mindful of During the Winter Months

Alicia HeaverHealth & WellnessNovember 27, 2018
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With Fall behind us, the festive Winter months are known to bring joy to those who celebrate the spirit of Christmas and other religious and cultural festivities, as loved ones and friends gather together in pleasure. However, with the Canadian cold weather comes heightened risks to the overall health and well-being of seniors.

The following five situations are common to be experienced by elderly adults in Winter, though can be avoided or at least managed if recognized.

1.    Winter Depression:

Seasonal depression is something experienced not only be seniors, however, the aging cohort usually comes to perceive pain and aches and pains more acutely during the colder months than others. A simple lifestyle change is to encourage seniors to consume foods with Vitamin D such as milk, grains and seafood like tuna and salmon. Always consult a medical professional when changing the diet of an elderly person to rule out any potential medication reactions or side effects.

2.    Influenza and the “flu”

Influenza each year affects the most marginalized individuals of our society, being young children, pregnant women and seniors. Flu vaccines have become highly accessible for Canadians over the years, as they are now readily available during flu season at local pharmacies, walk-in clinics and sometimes even at shopping malls or community centres. Although the vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing influenza, it is proven to significantly reduce the severity of symptoms and lessen the strain of the flu, also presenting further complications if diagnosed. Note that persons with allergies to eggs or dairy should avoid the flu shot, as all should consult with their family doctor prior to receiving any vaccines regardless.

3.    Hypothermia

As elderly adults have more of an inability to control and regulate their body temperatures during extreme weather, diligent supervision by a caregiver or loved one becomes critical during this time. If venturing out, ensure seniors are dressed properly in layered clothing, covering all elements of the body from head to toe. It is recommended that persons with cognitive impairments like Dementia should only venture out in extreme weather conditions when in the company of another individual that will ensure their exposure to inclement conditions is only when necessary.

4.    Poor Nutrition

Poor nutrition can often occur with seniors during the Winter season especially with those whom experience isolation from living alone. The extreme temperatures make getting to a grocery store more difficult and therefore less accessible, which leaves seniors relying on more non-perishable meals and minimal fresh produce. Volunteering to bring a senior grocery shopping or helping them register for a grocery delivery service can help to ensure they are properly nourished and will also remain safe in their homes doing so.

5.    Infamous Slips and Falls

Lastly, the slips and falls that affect seniors during the snowy months is something that unfortunately is a common incident and, in some cases, cause fatalities every season. In icy, blackout and snowy conditions, it is always advised for any senior to remain inside unless it is an emergency that requires leaving home. If an elderly person needs to leave their dwelling, always make the individual feel that they are encouraged to contact a family member or a car service to get them from point A to B without any trauma or consequence.

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