Winter lover or not, one thing is certain – winters here in the UK are long, dark and cold. The winter months bring festivities such as Halloween, Bonfire Night and of course, Christmas. We picture twinkly lights, raging fires and hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows.
But that’s not the reality for a lot of people, particularly the elderly. For our ageing loved ones, the long, dark days and chilly weather bring extra challenges. They have a weaker immune system now to fight off winter viruses and less body mass to keep themselves warm.
Caring For Our Aging Loved Ones As The Weather Turns Cold
- Keep Warm
One of the biggest risks to the elderly during winter is not staying warm enough. Older adults can lose heat more quickly, are not always aware of their temperature and may not maintain a high enough temperature in their home. Hypothermia (when the temperature of the body drops below 35°C) can be a real risk, especially to those living alone. Early signs such as cold hands and feet, pale skin, lethargy and confusion can go unnoticed.
Winter can cause added financial stress to the elderly and the heating is often turned off to try and save money. Ideally, living areas should be maintained above 21°C and bedrooms above 18°C.
The UK government provides financial support to the elderly to help cover heating costs. You can find out more here.
It’s also important to make sure your elderly loved one has enough warm blankets and clothing. Having various items accessible in the living areas and bedroom will make it easier for them to be used when needed.
- Nutritious Meals
It’s common for the elderly to shop less frequently in the winter to avoid going out in the cold. This can result in eating less nutritionally balanced meals as ingredients run low. Ensuring the cupboards are well stocked and regularly offering shopping trips can help prevent this. If you find your loved one’s appetite is reduced, encourage them to eat a little of what they fancy rather than skipping meals altogether.
- Staying Safe Outdoors
Slips and falls are a major risk to the elderly when temperatures dip below freezing. Wearing sturdy footwear and spreading grit on pathways and driveways will help prevent falls. Installing handrails outdoors, near steps or uneven surfaces is beneficial too.
Check your elderly relative’s car to ensure it’s in good working order. A breakdown on a cold winter’s day could lead to hypothermia quickly. It’s a good idea to keep a blanket in the car for emergencies.
It is also a good idea to be prepared with extra layers of clothes, a hat, gloves, etc. A mild, sunny winter morning can quickly turn into a very cold afternoon once the sun goes down.
- Preventing Illness
As our immune system becomes weaker with age it’s important to take extra care and preventative measures. If your elderly loved one has pre-existing medical conditions, ensure they have their medication and attend appointments as required. It’s advised that the elderly remain up-to-date with the recommended flu vaccinations to prevent serious illness.
- Mental Health
The long dark nights can have an effect on the mental health of us all. This can be even more profound for our ageing loved ones who may not be venturing outside to socialise as often as before.
It’s important to spend time together, on the phone or video call when you’re not able to in person. Encourage them to get out and about on finer days. Most communities or churches have activities or lunches that aim to bring the elderly in the community together. It might mean you need to do the research for them so they know what’s available in their area. Staying social and feeling connected will help them feel mentally and emotionally well.
- Keep Moving
Exercise is so important for both mental and physical health. Moving around every hour or so at home helps to maintain strength and mobility. It also generates heat and helps to keep warm.
You can help your loved one stay active by encouraging low impact activities such as swimming or a lovely winter stroll in the park together.
Eximius Can Help
If you would like peace of mind that your ageing loved one is staying well and healthy through the winter, Eximius can help. We can provide personalised care, geared towards the individual needs and interests of each client.
Eximius can do regular check-ins with your relative. This can be as simple as checking the heating is on, checking their general wellbeing or their temperature. We can do the shopping or take them out for their own shopping and ensure they are eating properly. Even just providing good company and a chat over a hot cup of tea.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, we’d love to chat. So please get in touch.