The winter months can be brutal, especially here in New England. This year with the Polar Vortex in full swing the temperatures have dropped into the single digits more than once, with wind-chills in the negative range. For the average healthy person this is not a significant problem. Just pile on the snow gear and go about your day. However, for the elderly and people with illness or physical disabilities, the cold winter months can be particularly challenging.
The good news is that we are now in the second half of February and spring will officially be on its way in about one month. Until then though, it is important that we continue to check on our loved ones. For those that have in-home nursing care, the services can be a savior when it is cold, snowing, and icy. If you have an elderly relative or friend who lives on their own but does not receive home care, you might consider registering them for health and safety’s sake.
Cold Weather Problems
As temperatures drop, many seniors view the inclement weather as a time to board themselves up in their homes. They refuse to go out, even when they run out of necessities like food or medication. As a result their nutrition and health suffers. The isolation can also cause depression to set in.
On the other end of the spectrum are the seniors that feel that they must go out to get a jar of peanut butter, despite blizzard conditions. These brave souls face other dangers, such as falling in the slippery parking lot or careening off the road in their car as they hit a patch of ice; both of which are can be potentially life threatening.
Back inside, other problems can occur. Seniors with dementia or who are on certain medications may be unaware of temperature drops because they do not feel it. Others, worried about their fixed income, become concerned about the high cost of heat and set the thermostat too low. In either case they may be subjected to hypothermia.
Home Care to the Rescue
At times like these is when a RN or personal care aides may seem like angels in disguise. Knowing the problems their clients face, men and women from the home care agency can check that the person continues to eat well and take their medication on time. If needed, it can be arranged to have them go to the market or pharmacy. Transportation is also available to ensure a safer drive if going out is necessary.
Many home care nurses will also check on other things when they know there is going to be a blizzard or cold snap, such as the temperature on the thermostat and that there is someone to shovel away the snow. Equal in importance, nurses and caregivers provide companionship during the long winter months when seniors tend to hide away from the outside world. On those days when the temperature does manage to break into the 40s or 50s, a few minutes outside walking in the fresh sunshine and air together may even be in order.
What You Can Do
While we highly suggest hiring a home care agency to help you feel confident that your loved one is safe and sound, there are some things you can do during the cold winter months to make them easier for the senior in your life.
- Check in on your loved one regularly, or arrange to have someone who can do it.
- Get the person out of the home, even if just for a quick trip to the store, to prevent isolation.
- Request medication delivery from your local pharmacy or prescription service to the home so they person does not run out.
- Sign up for online grocery ordering and delivery to keep the cupboards and refrigerator always stocked.
- When it snows, send someone over to shovel and salt the walkways.
Obtaining the services of a home care agency is as easy as calling MAS Home Care at one of our several locations throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Don’t let your loved one struggle through the winter alone.