- Becca Cutter, Certified Senior Care Manager
Cold Weather Is Snow Laughing Matter
Moving down to Tennessee about 13 years ago changed my life in many ways. I was born in Florence, Kentucky, which is about 10 minutes outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. So, I was used to colder weather and an immensely larger amount of snow than what we tend to get down here in Rutherford County.
It didn't take long to realize that Tennessee's winters were milder, which made me sad because snow is one of my most favorite things. However, when I saw how much school I was getting to miss, I wasn't too upset anymore.
Now, when we are younger, how much snow we get and how much school we miss are the types of concerns that come to mind when heading into the Winter season. But as we age, it is important to understand the more severe risks that come along with cold weather. Like the title says, cold weather is snow laughing matter. If you have read any of my blogs in the past, you know I can't resist a cheesy pun.
Of course, driving on the roads is a concern for people of all ages who are going to be using transportation while there is snow falling with extremely low temperatures. If we can, we should stay off the roads, but sometimes that isn't possible. So, if you have to be out on the roads, be sure to drive slow and just being as cautious as possible. However, too often, people concern themselves with the amount of snow on the road and forget to think about the scarier issue of black ice. Moral of the story: Just because you can't see snow anymore, doesn't mean the roads are completely safe.
Also, if an older adult with compromised vision, recent history of questionable driving, or decreased cognitive or motor skills is attempting to drive on the roads when they are in bad condition, here are some tips to prevent them from doing so:
1. Redirect them to stay home to do whatever activity they may be trying to go out to do.
2. Help reschedule any doctor's appointments they may feel obligated to go to.
3. Bring them a meal to prevent them from going to a restaurant or grocery store.
4. Offer to come visit when the roads get better to give them something to look forward to because, let's face it, being stuck in your house alone would be no fun.
5. Call them to talk. Even without cold weather keeping them inside, loneliness is a real issue with many older adults on a regular basis.
6. If all else fails, just kindly ask them to stay home and off the roads because you care for them.
After trying these options, you can at least feel good about encouraging your loved one to stay off the roads. Now, if your loved one is a senior, lives alone, and insists on putting themselves in danger, then it may be time to consider having a caregiver assist your parent to ensure they are taking care of themselves properly and making healthy, positive choices each day. Only if this is consistent behavior for your loved one and you think having someone with them could benefit their life.
Older adults can actually have some severe problems arise just from the cold weather outside. It's so important to make sure that your loved ones in the senior community are taken care of during severe winter weather, like we are having today in Murfreesboro. Here are some things that older adults can do to keep warm and prevent hypothermia from setting in:
1. Turn the heat up to 68 degrees or higher.
2. Close blinds, draw curtains, and place a rolled towel at the bottom of the doors to prevent a draft from coming in.
3. Wear warm clothing and several layers of clothing if necessary. Also, wear hats, gloves, socks..
4. At night, temperatures typically drop even lower, so maybe even wearing longer underwear under pajamas to prevent a body temperature lower than 95 degrees from setting in. Any lower than 95 degrees, hypothermia can begin to set in for older adults.
5. Cover up with blankets.
6. Try not to drink alcohol, or at least limit the amount, because alcohol can make you lose body heat.
7. If you have a fireplace, use it. If not, try not to sit close to doors, or windows.
8. If you enjoy hot beverages such as tea or decaffeinated coffee, then that may help warm your body and bring some comfort.
9. A hot bowl of chili, beef stew, or soup usually does the trick too. If hot foods aren't an option, then still make sure to eat something to keep your weight and energy up.
10. If the power goes out for any reason, then I recommend trying to stay with a friend, or a relative. If that isn't an option, be sure to do everything else that you can on the list.
Unfortunately, cold and damp weather affects those living with arthritis negatively. It causes more pain and tightness in the joints. This is good to be aware of if you are a caregiver to an older adult that has arthritis because they may need to take medication or they may benefit from a massage to relieve the pain. Also, an older adult who has arthritis, but that is also living with Alzheimer's/Dementia, a decreased ability to speak or communicate, or depression may not directly express their discomfort or pain to you. Therefore, it is your responsibility to know the signs of what could make their arthritis flare up. Sometimes colder weather isn't the first thing that comes to mind when the person you take care of starts acting agitated,or complaining of something but not giving any specifics. So, adding colder weather to your checklist of potential issues that could be causing a flare may help you to identify how to present a solution quicker to your care recipient's problem.
Those living with MS, should typically stay away from extreme temperatures of hot and cold. Some people have a bigger issue with really cold weather, some do worse around the hotter temperatures, and some don't agree with either ends of the spectrum. Depending on the stage of progression the person living with MS has reached, the colder weather can induce spasticity and reduce the ability to walk or even move. Another reason for any person providing care to someone living with Multiple Sclerosis, no matter what type, should be aware of what factors can change their day for the worse.
There are many other diseases/disabilities that are negatively affected by colder weather and other problems that arise for older adults experiencing colder weather. So, being aware is the first step. No matter what an older adult is going through, even if they are in perfect health, just be proactive in making sure that they are taking care of themselves properly in severe cold weather. After all, taking care of our elders is the least we can do, after everything they have done for us.
Don't get me wrong, because I still love snow! Watching it fall makes my heart flutter. So, I hope you don't find that I am focusing on the negatives of cold weather. Rather, I am just being an opportunist. What better time to address the issue of cold weather and how it can affect the community I try to serve each day, than today?
Take care of yourselves and enjoy the beautiful blanket of snow we have received here in Tennessee! But, most importantly, stay warm!
I know one little guy that doesn't seem to mind this cold weather at all.
Meet Blue, my sweet little Miniature Australian Shepherd. Not even a year old yet!
As you can tell, he is very happy that his mom decided to stay and work from home today. If any of you reading this post have any fur babies of your own, then please share some pictures to our FaceBook page! I would love to see them!
If you have any questions for me regarding tips to stay warm and healthy during this winter season, or how you can find some care for a loved one who could use an extra hand around the house, don't hesitate to contact me using my phone number or email below!
Certified Senior Care Manager
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