Helping You Fight Winter’s Risks to the Elderly


by Dianna Malkowski, Physician Assistant & Nutritionist
                                    
Large base quad cane
The elderly are especially susceptible to trauma in the winter months, and it’s important to be aware of the risks. Now is the time to take extra precautions against slips and falls, hypothermia and the flu.

With the extreme cold weather and flu season we’re experiencing, monitoring our seniors is more important than ever. If you have an elderly friend, relative or neighbor who lives alone, call or visit once a day. If you don’t live nearby, call daily or ask someone to check in on your loved one. Keep emergency telephone numbers posted where your loved one and visitors can clearly see them, and consider equipping the home with a monitoring system, large-button amplified phone or reliable cell phone like the My Health Phone, a phone that reminds users to check in with their caregivers.

Preventing slips and falls: Canes with large quad bases can make walking safer and easier, especially on uneven surfaces. While rubber cane tips and bases can help with stability on slippery areas, it’s important to remove snow and ice accumulation. Seniors who use walkers may find models with large wheels, 8 inches or more, are easier to maneuver both indoors and out. See more.

Guarding against hypothermia: The elderly are at risk in cold weather because the body’s ability to maintain a constant internal temperature decreases with age. In addition to keeping homes warm inside, it’s important dress in warm layers outdoors, including hats, gloves and scarves to warm air before breathing it in. Because a fall outdoors is especially dangerous for a senior who’s alone, emergency monitoring pendants are life savers.

Fighting the flu: Older adults are at greatest risk of complications from the flu, including dehydration and pneumonia, according to the American Red Cross. If an elderly loved one becomes ill, encourage her to see her doctor and take her if necessary. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three ways to fight the flu: (1) getting a flu vaccine; (2) avoiding contact with germs; and (3) taking flu antiviral drugs if a doctor prescribes them.

To learn more about preventing falls at home, download our free 25-page fall prevention guide.

Dianna Malkowski is a Board Certified Physician Assistant and Mayo Clinic trained nutritionist specializing in diabetes, cancer, wound healing, therapeutic diets and nutrition support. She serves on the board of professional advisers for The CareGiver Partnership and enjoys working with patients and caregivers alike. Ask Dianna a question.




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