Winter is here again, and with it come a whole bunch of weather related inconveniences and health issues. Check out the tips below for preventing common winter related problems.
1. Minimize the risk of falls
Make sure you wear winter shoes with good traction and non-skid soles, and stay indoors until the roads or sidewalks are clear. Replace a worn cane tip to making walking easier. Take off shoes as soon as you return indoors because often snow and ice attach to the soles and, once melted, can lead to slippery conditions on indoor floors.
2. Stay warm
Dress for the weather if you have to go out. Wear loose layers of clothing, the air between the layers helps to keep you warm. Wear a hat and scarf, you lose a lot of body heat when your head and neck are uncovered. Change your clothes right away if they get damp or wet.
Frostbite, pneumonia, and flu are just a few of the many health problems commonly seen during winter. Thyroid disease can make it hard to maintain a normal body temperature. Diabetics have blood circulation problems that can keep blood from flowing normally to provide warmth. People with Parkinson's disease or arthritis can find it hard to put on more clothes, use a blanket, or go out in the cold. Dementia can cause a person to go outside without the right clothing. So bundle up to stay warm whether you are inside or outdoors.
Make sure your doors and windows are well insulated.
3. Travel safe
Driving in harsh conditions should be avoided if at all possible. Make sure you get winter tires, and that your car is serviced for optimum performance in harsh weather. If you absolutely have to travel in bad weather, see if you can access a senior transportation service.
4. Be prepared for emergencies
Harsh winter weather can cause power outages, and you might also be forced to stay indoors for short periods of time. Be sure you have a emergency kit available at home. Stock it with food, water, a first-aid kit, blankets, batteries, flashlight and other basic necessities. Make sure you always have a couple of weeks' supply of medications too.
5. Eat well, stay hydrated and exercise
During winter people tend to spend more time indoors and may eat a smaller variety of foods, owing to less frequent grocery shopping trips. Nutritional deficiencies, especially Vitamin D deficiency can be a problem. Try to eat foods that are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, orange juice, grains, tuna and salmon.
A balanced diet is very important, but even more important is to stay hydrated. Drink enough water and fluids to stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause serious health issues.
Going out for walks can be dangerous in the winter, so if possible, drive to a indoor shopping mall or community centre and walk there to get some exercise.
Some people experience powerful changes in their mental health to the degree that it becomes a form of clinical depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). There's a lot of information and support for people with S.A.D. So, don't hold yourself back. See a doctor, talk to a friend, ask for help. Read more about S.A.D. here.
Get vaccinated against Flu and Pneumonia. The vaccines do not guarantee to protect you from getting infected, but the course of the illness will be shorter and less severe.
8. Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Using a fireplace, gas heater or lanterns can be a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Ensure your safety by checking the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector.
Wintertime certainly poses challenges for seniors, but with a bit of planning and awareness, you can stay healthy and safe. We know how challenging winter can be for some. At in4MED, we can make this stressful time easier by connecting you to local support systems and being there for you as your trusted health advocates. As always, feel free to connect with me or leave a comment. Stay safe!
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.