Caring for Your Senior Loved One During the Winter Months
It can be difficult to have an older loved one experiencing difficulty while on their own at home. They may insist that "everything is fine" and they can handle every challenge on their own. Nevertheless, it's important for caregivers to watch out for signs that their senior loved one may need some additional assistance. Since wintertime can present unique challenges even for the young and healthy, it's particularly important for caregivers to consider how the challenges of the winter months may adversely affect their senior loved ones.
Slips and Falls During the Winter Months
Challenges - Wintertime is the premier time to experience a slip or fall, both inside and outside the home. Snow and ice can make it hazardous to perform even simple outdoor tasks, such as checking one's mailbox. Indoors, items such as wet boots can leave wet tracks and puddles. This can make even indoor walking potentially hazardous for seniors.
Solutions - Caregivers can reduce the risk of slips and falls around their senior loved one's home either by hiring a snow removal service or maintaining the exterior grounds themselves. Perhaps even more important than snow removal is ensuring that a generous layer of ice melt is placed on porch steps and sidewalks. Doing this consistently after every precipitation event will help provide traction and will melt both snow and ice. Caregivers should also make sure that porch railings and other supports are located in strategic areas.
For the interior, place a rubber mat near the door or inside a coat closet during the winter months. This can act as a place to store their wet boots, shoes, etc. Placing a chair or bench nearby for people to sit on while they are putting on or taking off their boots adds another measure of safety as well. Lastly, placing a rubber-backed rug in front of all exterior doors can help absorb some of the moisture from footwear and help provide traction as well.
Engagement Outside the Home
Challenges - An unexpected snow or ice storm can interrupt a senior's ability to engage in activities outside the home. This may include trips such as:
- Picking up a drug prescription
- Shopping for groceries
- Visiting their local library
- Attending their regular church or other religious service
Solutions - If there's one good thing that evolved from the pandemic, it's the explosion of home delivery services. Caregivers can order everything their senior loved one needs online, then have it delivered directly to their loved one. Unlike services like the post office, which will simply drop off packages on a doorstep, delivery services provide further assistance by placing packages just inside the home. This can be particularly helpful when dealing with heavy items such as cat litter or water softener salt.
For other trips such as visiting the library or picking up a prescription, make sure your loved one knows you're available to make those trips with them.
Challenges - While winter can offer some cozy moments such as enjoying a hot cup of steaming coffee, it can also be a dreary time of year. Between the snowstorms, the chilly temperatures, and the gray skies, many people begin to feel at least mildly depressed. Seniors, especially, may begin to feel isolated as the winter weather makes it more difficult to stay active and engaged with others.
Solutions - If their doctor gives them the OK, consider encouraging your senior loved one to find some free exercise videos on YouTube. Many of YouTube's videos are geared toward seniors and offer exercises performed in a chair. Most health professionals agree that exercise is an important part of good health and can increase longevity and mental alertness.
Lastly, personal interaction, especially with family and friends, is what most seniors value the most. Oftentimes, the most important thing a caregiver can do is to simply regularly check in on their loved one. Sometimes that means stopping in for a cup of coffee and a 20-minute chat. Other times, it means spending an evening playing cards or having a Zoom meeting.
Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP)
CDPAP is a New York State Medicaid Program that will compensate the caregiver, the consumer chooses to help with daily living activities. In order to qualify for CDPAP, a person must be eligible for Medicaid, be able to direct their own care,choose their caregiver and need help with their activities of daily living.
Elite Choice, is a fiscal intermediary for CDPAP, supporting at-home caregivers and their loved ones so that being cared for in your own home is a blessing for everyone.
Learn More About Caring for a Senior During the Winter Months
Written by: Leah Ganz
Leah Ganz, RN, BSN is the Director of Patient Services at Elite Home Health Care. She has an extensive background in homecare and previously worked in various specialties including pediatrics, pain management and internal medicine. She oversees all patient services across Elite's departments.