2017-12-20 / Columns

How you can support your aging parent during the winter months

CEO/ Jewish Senior Housing and Healthcare Service

It is wintertime again, and with the season comes safety hazards and emotional issues unique to the winter months. When the weather gets colder and it becomes dreary outside, seniors are more prone to the “Winter Blues,” which can cause them to feel depressed, isolated and even fearful of the upcoming safety hazards. Fortunately, there’s plenty that can be done to help decrease the fear and loneliness your loved one might be facing.

Understand the Importance of Fall Prevention: When winter comes, it can bring snow, ice and sleet, making surfaces wet, slippery and much more hazardous to seniors. Preventing these falls is important because of the significant health risks they pose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1/3 of adults over 65 fall each year. One out of every 10 falls causes hip fractures or head injuries that result in the need for hospitalization, and they can even be fatal.

Falls can be prevented by taking important safety measures, such as putting out salt, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They state that if you don’t have salt, cat litter and sand work just as well. Be sure to sprinkle the salt, litter or sand on the sidewalks, steps and driveways in order to make it less likely that your loved one will fall. If possible, have someone else shovel the snow or clear off the driveways so your loved one does not have to; but if they do, make sure that they have boots that have non-skid soles, so they are less likely to fall.

Falls can also be prevented indoors by placing a non-slip rug by all doors so anyone that comes inside will not track water or snow through the house, causing wet and slippery surfaces. Better yet, ask anyone who comes inside to remove his or her shoes.

Increase Social Interaction: Because the weather is often dreary in the winter and days are longer, seniors could become depressed, lonely, and may even crave social interaction. Isolation can cause an array of health problems—from poor emotional health and increased risk of illness to high blood pressure and even a higher mortality rate—making it important for them to socialize.

If your loved one is able and it’s safe to do so, encourage them to get involved either in their community or in a group. Volunteering at local organizations, events, and synagogue groups, can get them more involved. If they are unable to drive and it’s possible for you to take them places, consider taking them to visit their family and friends or even a senior living community where they can participate in programs while making friends and doing things that they enjoy.

Increase Their Independence: If your loved one spends much of their time at home, consider encouraging them to find useful ways to spend their time. Instead of watching television or taking naps, find ways to increase mental activity. Buy them puzzles, word games, books or other brainteasers. If they are able, encourage them to spend time exercising or trying out a new hobby. Visit them a little more often and do some of these activities together so they not only are remaining active, but are also engaging and connecting with you.

Don’t forget to check on your loved one as much as possible during the winter season to ensure they are safe. Stop by to see them, ask neighbors to check on them and, if needed, sign up for an emergency response system so they can call for help if required. These simple suggestions can help to support your loved one throughout the winter and make the cold season seem a little warmer this year.

Lions Gate, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Voorhees, offers an array of programs, activities and social opportunities to chase away seniors’ winter blues and lead to a more engaging, fulfilling winter season. Lions Gate is also available as a resource to area seniors and their families. For more information, call Peggy O’Neill, director of Sales & Marketing, at (856) 782-1200.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe and healthy New Year!


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