The winter months from November to February are a tricky time of year for seniors. Navigating shorter days, colder temperatures, and gray skies takes a toll on many.
Seasonal depression, health risks, and inclement weather all play a huge role in impacting and affecting mood and lifestyle during these months. This article reviews the causes and explains why this occurs, as well as offering proactive strategies to help manage seasonal challenges.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health or NIH, millions of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) where they experience low mood, trouble maintaining normal activities or interests, and a general apathy towards life. SAD is pointedly common in seniors due to natural lifestyle changes, and health conditions or concerns.
During the winter months, people and especially seniors tend to become more isolated. Due to weather-related concerns, holiday travel plans, or vacations – friends and family become busier and regular visits or plans can occasionally lapse. This isolation can foster a sense of loneliness or abandonment for many seniors.
In-home caregiving is beneficial during these times because a caregiver means constant care and support. Caregivers can monitor seniors for any mood or behavioral changes that might require intervention or extra support. They can implement small and helpful changes such adjusting medication dosages, utilizing white light therapy bulbs to help brighten the home on a gray day, and increasing vitamin D intake through diet or supplements, if needed.
Caregivers can help seniors connect with friends and family in creative ways. Online communication methods that have gained popularity in recent years like FaceTime or Zoom can be difficult for seniors to navigate. Caregivers can help facilitate those interactions so that seniors can both see and talk to other people from the safety and comfort of their home.
Feeling cold can be mitigated by dressing warmly and turning the heat up. However, cold weather brings additional health risks that impacts the safety and well-being of seniors.
- Respiratory Illnesses
- Cold weather is notorious for the spread of respiratory illness like the common cold, flu, and pneumonia to name a few. Respiratory conditions are more widespread during the colder months because viruses tend to spread more easily in enclosed, indoor environments. Also, seniors are more susceptible to these with longer-term health implications due to the natural decrease in immunity as the aging process occurs.
- Heart Conditions
- A lesser known fact is the increase of cardiovascular issues such as increased blood pressure and heart attacks. In order to maintain body heat, the human heart has to work harder during colder months and this adds strain to the cardiovascular system. In instances where seniors have comorbidities such as heart conditions, this is an added layer of concern.
- Joint Pain
- Joint pain is also increased during the colder months due to both the cold and damp causing arthritic conditions to become inflamed.
- Fall Risk
- Lower temperatures, rain, ice, and snow make for a dangerous combination for seniors. Fall risk is increased in the winter due to weather conditions and seniors have to be very careful when venturing outdoors. Recovering from a fall can take months of intensive medical procedures, rehabilitation and lifestyle change.
Symptoms of these conditions point to a need to be more mindful of outdoor activities and make sense for seniors to try and stay indoors during the winter months, when possible. However, this does not mean that activities and engagement also have to be limited.
Having an in-home caregiver is very helpful for this reason. The caregiver has the time, ability and education to help seniors remain healthy and active in their homes. If daily walks outside are challenging due to rain or snow, then an indoor gentle stretching or yoga class can be equally beneficial. A caregiver can provide companionship in many stimulating activities such as card games, coloring, reading books together, doing an online class, or even just watching a show or movie together .
Inclement Weather Preparation
In the last few years, inclement weather protocols especially in Dallas/ Ft. Worth and surrounding areas have become both urgent and necessary. Extreme winter weather conditions like ice and snow have caused power outages and flooding. Groceries or daily errands are impossible to complete with unsafe road conditions.
Seniors with specific needs such as Alzheimers, Dementia, Parkinson’s patients, or those recovering from a stroke, orthopedic surgery, chemotherapy are at a higher risk of being impacted by inclement weather due to their medical needs.
Inclement weather planning should include strategies and plans to:
- Winterize the home
- Be aware of water main shut offs in case of freezing temperatures
- Clearing driveways or main walkways and salting them to reduce icy conditions
- Ensuring that there is wood for a fireplace if applicable, or alternative heat sources in case of a power outage
- Stock up on medications, water, food supplies, first aid, and insulated blankets to keep seniors warm.
- Emergency Contacts including family members, plumbers, electricians, city help lines
- Portable chargers, batteries, and flashlights
This is by no means an exhaustive list but a few items to consider when it comes to maintaining safety during inclement winter weather. Of course, navigating so many different aspects of this can be challenging for seniors, however a live-in caregiver can help oversee the process and manage it for them. Caregivers also know the specific needs of their clients and are able to prioritize them during emergency settings.
For further tips and advice, visit the Texas Department of Insurance for a comprehensive list of helpful strategies and next steps.
At Care Mountain, we have over 17 years of focused experience providing in-home care and support for you or your loved ones across the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex. Our thorough and extensive hiring process ensures that we work with experienced caregivers who understand the multiple factors that require in-home caregiving. The breadth of their experience means that they can provide support in challenging and changing circumstances.
Our experience also helps us provide a nuanced and personalized level of care throughout Dallas and Ft. Worth areas. Caregiving is a full-time requirement that most family members cannot provide on a part-time basis.
Care Mountain’s extensive network of in-home caregivers can provide support across the Metroplex across Plano, Allen, McKinney, Preston Hollow, Dallas, Highland Park, Fort Worth, Southlake, Arlington and many more. Contact us today to see how we can help provide support and 24/7 care to help you or your loved one navigate their journey of in-home care, year round.