We all know that cold weather can have adverse effects on the elderly - but why exactly does the cold weather effect our elderly population so much? We look at 4 factors which can have adverse effects on the elderly and what you can do to ensure your loved ones are safe and warm this winter.
As the temperatures drop in winter, we look out for our elderly friends and relatives - this time of the year can be a lonely and challenging time for them. Economic and social factors create difficult circumstances for elderly and vulnerable people who may not have relatives or friends around them to help them make a hot home cooked meal, or fix the heating. We wanted to look at 4 common factors which can have an effect on elderly people in winter time, and how you can help avoid them.
Isolation & Loneliness
Families can live away from their elderly parents and weather conditions like snow and ice can make it difficult to visit, meaning the elderly are left alone for long periods of time. Being alone at home, not being to go out due to health or mobility conditions, lack of sunlight, and lack or human communication can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. Mental health has a big impact on physical health, and can make conditions like dementia or Alzheimer's worse.
You can help your elderly relatives feel less isolated by teaching them how to use Skype or FaceTime so they can jump on a call with the family and chat in the evenings. You can also ask local friends, relatives, and neighbours to pop in and check everything is OK.
Cold & Flu
'Tis the season of cold and flu! As we get older our immune system weakens and we become more susceptible to viruses. During winter, especially around Christmas time, we are exposed to crowds of people whilst shopping or having festive fun. Elderly living in care homes can also be more susceptible to flu and colds as these viruses travel around communities.
Help you elderly relative get a flu jab which will help protect them against the virus. You can also make sure they are getting a regular supply of vitamins by eating healthy meals and taking supplements.
50% of hypothermia deaths occur in people aged over 60. Shockingly, if your relatives property isn't heated properly and to a healthy temperature, hypothermia can occur in the home mostly whilst sleeping or for people who are bed ridden. Most commonly, hypothermia happens outside in the cold weather if an elderly person has a fall and is unable to call for help or get up.
Ensure your loved ones heating is working and on - recommended temperature of 19°C. Give them the phone number to call for help if their boiler breaks, and ensure they have hot water bottles on hand whilst heating is being fixed. Ensure there are plenty of blankets and throws around, and your parents wear extra layers when venturing out.
Falls & Injuries
If your elderly relatives get out and about (walking or driving), there is an increased risk of falls and accidents during winter due to hours of darkness and icy roads. If an injury occurs from a fall, this could be bad news for your family as there is likely to be a long treatment process, and you will need to provide your family member with care if they are unable to get out of bed.
Whilst it's difficult to prevent a fall or injury during winter, you can make sure your relatives use gritted and clean roads where they can see their path; carry a mobile phone so they can call in case of an emergency fall; and if driving they should take all precautions necessary such as having their glasses, carry a blanket or throw in the boot, along with food and water - if they do get stuck in the snow, they won't need to leave their car and can wait for assistance safely.
We work on placing live-in carers with clients for companionship and care, and we often find that during winter families arrange live-in care to ensure their elderly loved ones have a helping hand around the house, eat nutritious home cooked meals, have a trusted companion, and someone to keep an eye and avoid emergency situations. If you would like to arrange live-in care for your elderly parents, call our friendly live-in care team on 0800 980 3958 or click here to send us your details and we'll be in touch!