Keeping Your Elderly Parent Safe in Winter Months
Another autumn is ending. The leaves have been raked, the wood stacked, the rock salt purchased. Winter brings concern for your elderly parent and for good reason. Fifty percent of hypothermia deaths occur in people over the age of 55.
Being aware of the symptoms will ensure that you get your loved one the proper care in a timely matter before permanent damage occurs. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Symptoms of hypothermia include fatigue, decreased breathing rate, cold skin, confusion and slurred speech. If you are concerned, your first task is to get their body warm. Placing them in a lukewarm bath or wrapping them in an electric blanket is recommended. Drinking a warm beverage is also helpful. Hypothermia is considered a medical emergency. Contact your health care provider or emergency response team.
Frostbite is a condition in which skin, and tissue just below the skin, freeze. It occurs when skin is exposed to extreme cold for too long. In superficial frostbite, with adequate treatment, full recovery is expected. If the frostbite is deep, gangrene and loss of limb may result. Symptoms include pins and needles in the affected extremity with aching, throbbing or lack of feeling, hard pale skin, and red or painful skin as it thaws. Treatment is similar to hypothermia. In addition, remove any rings or jewelry and do not rub the affected area.
Prevention is always the best medicine. Be sure your loved one knows the importance of wrapping up well before venturing outside on a cold day. This includes wearing multiple layers with at least one of those being waterproof. Always wear hat and gloves and limit the time spent outdoors.
A few things you can do as winter approaches: be sure their home is well-insulated by installing storm windows. Repair roof leaks and cut tree branches. Clean chimney and be sure you know how to shut off water valves in their home as well as your own. Purchase rock salt for pathways.
Home Care Providers
Winter is a good time of year to consider obtaining the aid of a home care provider. They can help ensure your loved one’s safety by accompanying them on walks and making sure that they are dressed right for the occasion. They are also available for transportation to appointments and social outings, making sure your parent continues to be engaged and safe during the cold winter months.