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January 22, 2020

Winter Health Risks for Seniors

For an older person, a body temperature of 95°F or lower can cause many health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.


Spending time with loved ones, enjoying nature and participating in activities can improve quality of life for seniors. However, cold winter weather can create a barrier to many senior’s regular schedules. And, it’s not just snow and ice that make winter a difficult season for seniors – additional factors include post-holiday isolation, illness, and the physical effect of cold weather.

Knowing what to look for, and creating a strategy for combatting winter health risks, can help seniors maintain positive mental health and physical wellness. Some factors to consider include:

  • Winter blues – Cold air and gloomy skies can make anyone feel less cheerful during the winter months. However, depression can have an outsized effect on seniors and their long-term mental health. Creating opportunities for socialization and finding joyful moments isn’t just for fun – it can help foster critical connection and combat loneliness. There are a variety of uplifting activities that can be enjoyed during the winter months. These include movie nights, reminiscing by the fire, and getting outside on a rare sunny day.
  • Winter illness– There are a variety of ways that seniors can be physically affected by the winter season. 
    1. Pneumonia: Pneumonia is an infection that can be dangerous for seniors due to lung issues that come with age, weakened immune systems and conditions that make pneumonia more severe. Older adults should talk to their doctor about healthy lifestyle changes and vaccines that can help.
    2. Joint pain: Joint pain can be more common for seniors in cold conditions – whether they suffer from arthritis or not. Dressing in layers, regulating the temperature inside and stretching exercises can help. A healthcare professional can also suggest exercise, medication or other coping strategies.
    3. Heart issues: Heart attacks and high blood pressure are more common in winter because cold snaps increase blood pressure and strain on the heart. The heart must work harder to maintain body heat, while falling temperatures may cause an unhealthy rise in high blood pressure, especially in seniors.
  • Winter safety – Being mindful of winter safety issues is important for seniors and their families. Cold weather can be more dangerous for those with some health conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, diabetes or thyroid problems. Seniors should talk to their doctor to learn more. Other types of accidents or injuries can be avoided through education too. Examples include being mindful of fall risks, monitoring carbon dioxide levels and preventing hypothermia. 

Comfort Keepers® Can Help

Our goal is to provide uplifting in-home care that benefits seniors and their families. The individualized care plans we create for our clients consider physical goals as well as non-physical mental health needs. Our caregivers can provide companionship or transportation to community events, and support physician-prescribed exercise regimens, provide companionship and help to families that want to stay connected through technology. We strive to elevate the human spirit through quality, compassionate, joyful care.

To learn more about our in-home care services, contact your local Comfort Keepers location today.

 

References

Medical Alert. “How to Avoid the Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Web. 2020.

American Lung Association. “Lung Health and Diseases: Learn About Pneumonia.” Web. 2018.

U.S. News. 10 Ways to Avoid Winter Joint Pain. Web. 2015.

American Heart Association. “Cold Weather and Cardiovascular Disease.” Web. 2015.

National Institute on Aging. “Cold Weather Safety for Older Adults.” Web. 2018.

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