The brutal cold of winter isn’t fun for anyone – but seniors are especially susceptible to certain risks in the wintertime! Here are 5 important winter hazards to be aware of, and some preventative measures seniors (and their loved ones!) can take to stay safe and warm.
1- Be Aware of the Weather Itself
This may seem like common sense, but winter weather poses numerous threats to seniors’ health and their environmental safety. The cold, ice and snow that accompanies this time of year put seniors at risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Seniors should make sure their heat is working in their home. If you do venture outside, you should be well-covered and bundled head-to-toe, and limit exposure to cold temps. Wearing shoes with proper traction prevents slipping & falling on ice and snow, too!
2- Decreased Daylight May Affect Seniors with Dementia
Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can experience “Sundowners Syndrome”, or increased “agitation, anger, confusion and memory loss during the evening hours.” Sundowning can be made worse in winter due to the ‘shorter’ days and lower light, which disrupts our body’s internal rhythm. Caregivers and family members of seniors with memory impairments may want to take steps to add indoor lighting and better establish a daily/nightly routine for these individuals.
3- The Flu
Get your flu shot! If you are a senior, get your flu shot. If you are a caregiver, get your flu shot. If you are a family member of a loved one in assisted living or close-quarters in a retirement home… get a flu shot. Seniors are especially susceptible to the flu and it can lead to serious complications like pneumonia.
4- Seasonal Affective Disorder
Different from Sundowners Syndrome, anyone can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or changes in mood and energy caused by decreased daylight in winter. Simple fixes like opening blinds to let natural light in, or investing in a light therapy lamp can help ease some of those wintertime blues. Serious depression, seasonal or not, should always be discussed with your doctor!
5- Feeling Lonely & Isolated
Winter weather hazards and mood changes may lead to seniors spending more time indoors, away from friends and family. If you notice a friend, loved one, or neighbor is spending a lot of time indoors and alone, check up on them! Stop in and say hello, give them a call, or arrange for a visit to their retirement home. Sometimes a little company is all you need to make it through the winter.