5 Ways to Help Your Aging Parent Through Winter

by Dale on December 8, 2010

Elderly peopleIt’s that time of year again, Winter!  Already, some areas of our country are being impacted with frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall.

Below is one my most popular posts from last winter.  It’s a good idea to think about how we can help our elderly parents and neighbors during times of cold and snowy weather.

So, here is my list of 5 ways to help the elderly, with a focus on health and safety.

  • Ensure adequate water and fluids. Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization in the elderly.  They are at risk even in the winter months. It can occur quickly due to decreased perception of thirst, illness, and prescription drugs. Symptoms may include fatigue and headache.  A good rule of thumb is 6 to 8 cups of liquid each day, including fruit juice, milk, tea and water.
  • Keep the inside temperature warm enough. According to the CDC, 50% of all deaths by hypothermia occur in those age 65+, many indoors.  The scary part is there is often no complaint of being cold or shivering.  Symptoms may include sleepiness and confusion.  Ensure home temperature is kept warm enough.  Dressing inlayers with socks, slippers and a wool or knit cap will also help.
  • Keep the pantry and freezer stocked. Nutrition is a big part of good health in the elderly.  Last year during the really bad east coast storms, many of the Meal on Wheels groups were unable to get out and deliver food.  So, make sure loved ones have some staples and frozen meals, just in case.   Select items that can be opened easily.  We found my mother had trouble getting the lids off normal soup cans, so we choose the plastic containers instead.  Meals can be frozen in single portion size. Turkey chili and brown rice; roast beef and sweet potatoes are two of mom’s favorites.
  • Have maintencance done on all the major appliances, including the furnace.  Check all smoke and carbon dioxide detectors. My mother often would delay annual maintenance to save money but ultimately had to pay out for repairs. Have the roof and gutters checked. Don’t know how to find a maintenance person in your parent’s town?  Ask a trusted neighbor or at your parent’s place of worship.
  • Ask a neighbor to help your parent with outside tasks, and to check in at least once weekly. When my mother lived alone in her home, she would often be home-bound during the winter months.  After falling once on a trip to her mailbox, she arranged to have a neighbor bring her mail to her every day.  This gentleman also took her trash out, and regularly asked if there was anything she needed.  He told us he enjoyed helping her.

If you have any other ideas to share, feel free to comment.  Thank you!

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