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Mandy Kloppers

Winter Health & Safety Tips for Seniors and Their Caregivers

Undoubtedly, winter brings with it many pleasantries including the holidays, picturesque snowfalls, and ideal conditions for many sports. However, as winter settles upon us, the colder weather and harsher climate can present challenges for everyone. This is especially important to keep in mind when considering health and safety tips for both seniors and their caregivers.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind while preparing for the upcoming winter season.

Staying Safe in the Snow

Snow-covered driveways, pathways, and icy sidewalks can present a hazard for everyone. However, they can be particularly hazardous for seniors, especially those with mobility issues. For seniors who live in apartments, condos or retirement residences, the building management will usually provide shoveling services and clear all communal spaces of ice and snow. If, however, your loved one lives in a house, ensure their sidewalk and driveway is cleared throughout the season to prevent a build-up of snow, ice and slush. Additionally, you and your loved one may consider purchasing “ice claws” or traction cleats, which can be attached to most shoes and provide better grip during inclement conditions.

The weather can be unpredictable, especially in the winter. Storms can often cause power outages and harsh conditions can make it difficult to go shopping for supplies. As such, it’s important to ensure that you or your loved one stock up on non-perishable food items and essential prescriptions, as well as flashlights, batteries, faux candles and ensuring mobile phones are charged.

If you or your loved one experience poor circulation or have a medical condition that causes poor circulation such as Raynaud’s syndrome, appropriate clothing can make a world of difference during the winter. Poor circulation can quickly make your extremities feel extremely cold, so thick gloves, thermal socks, compression gloves and heating pads are key essentials. Special attention should be made to the types of material your winter clothes are made of, as materials that are insulating and wicking will work to keep you or your loved one warm and dry. Stick to wools and flannels, and ensure to layer your clothing, keeping the outermost layer waterproof..

Stay Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

While winter is the proverbial season for getting sick, the winter season can also take its toll on mental health. As long as you or your loved one does not have a history of adverse reactions, consider getting a flu shot annually. Those over the age of 65 are at greater risk of complications upon contracting influenza, so ensure you or your loved one speak with your doctor about preventative options.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs most often during the winter season. Seniors who already experience some symptoms of depression from illness or feelings of isolation, may be at greater risk for developing SAD. One of the main causes of this type of depression is lack of exposure to natural light and a drop in Vitamin D levels, which help to balance the body’s serotonin and melatonin levels. The easiest way to combat symptoms of SAD is to expose yourself to natural light on a daily basis. This can be difficult, however, during the winter when the days are overcast and the weather is harsh. Phototherapy via a light box or “happy light” is an option to consider, however, ensure you or your loved one consult a trusted medical professional about preventative SAD treatments.

Maintaining a well-balanced diet high in certain vitamins can help to reinforce the immune system and keep you or your loved one feeling energized. Root vegetables are nutrient-rich and thrive during the cold months of winter. As such, consider stocking up on parsnips, yams, beets and carrots, all of which are high in Vitamins A, B and C, as well as iron. They’re also high in fibre and are considered slow-burning carbohydrates. Consider also stocking up on citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges or pineapple, all of which are high in Vitamin C and work to ward off cold and flu symptoms. Finally, omega-3 fatty acids are another important part of any diet, as they work to reduce inflammation, heart disease and even the effects of arthritis. Pick up some walnuts, avocados and flax seeds to add to your or your loved one’s diet.

Stay Mentally & Physically Active

While cold weather, snowfalls and strong winds can detract from going outside and engaging in physical activity, indoor exercise and mental activities can help to keep you or your loved one healthy. There is a wide variety of indoor activities for you or your loved one to engage in, including knitting, crocheting and cross-stitching, all of which provide excellent mental stimulation. Reading is another great option, and you or your loved one can consider starting or joining a book club. Retirement residences often organize a variety of social activities, such as chess or bridge tournaments, and mental puzzles like sudoku or crosswords, all of which are great options.

There are also a number of indoor physical activities perfect for winter that you or your loved one can consider. Walking outside can be replaced by “mall walking” which can allow for a fairly long stroll within a mall or other indoor centre. Similarly, the indoor space or covered outdoor grounds of retirement residences can also provide an excellent space to walk either alone, or with a friend or loved one. Consider what your or your loved one’s favourite spring and summer activities are and try to find a comparable option for winter to maintain both physical and mental health.

For seniors who have incontinence, pelvic muscle exercises are vital to exercise the muscles that help stop your from urinating. Physical activity may trigger incontinence so make sure to wear protection pads and pants every time you exercise. Consult your physician about safe pelvic muscle exercises that are suitable for your physical condition.

Making the most of enjoying the winter season simply requires taking a few extra steps and precautions to ensure your or your loved one’s safety, physical and mental wellbeing. If you or your loved one feel like it may be time to consider moving into a retirement residence, where you won’t have to worry about snow maintenance, enjoying a balanced diet or a shortage of indoor activities, visit Seasons Retirement Communities to find a residence near you.