Staying Well and Warm at Winter: A Guide for Loved Ones
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Cold weather can affect the elderly in various ways. The Live in Care Company has written this guide with some of the best tips for caring for your elderly relatives in the winter. Whether you are able to visit them regularly or not, there are some vital tips you can follow that can help keep your elderly loved one well and warm this winter.
If you think your loved one could benefit from live-in care, The Live in Care Company can help. You can easily find out more about our elderly live-in care options on our website. Click here to discover more about our live-in care services.
How does cold weather affect the elderly?
Cold weather can affect the elderly in various ways. Winter health is important to consider, especially for those aged 65 or older because their immune systems are likely to have weakened with age making them more susceptible to viruses, such as the common cold or flu. Viruses are also more likely to survive outside the body for longer periods during colder temperatures, making Winter a time of year in which many viruses thrive.
Being cold can increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke because the cold can raise blood pressure, thicken the blood and cause arteries to constrict. The heart then has to work harder putting it at risk of complications. Older people are also more likely to suffer from other long-term conditions such as bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and diabetes which puts them at greater risk during cold, damp months.
Who’s at risk from cold weather?
Those who are above 65 years of age and have pre-existing medical conditions that affect the heart, lungs, and immune system, are more likely to be at risk. Those with dementia may also be more at risk as they may not be aware of the precautions needed to stay warm.
Our bodies work in a fine-tuned manner to ensure that our body temperature remains at an optimal level to protect cells and organs from damage. The cold weather can make this more challenging particularly for those who are elderly as their bodies may be less effective at regulating body temperature.
Elderly people with poor nutrition and a tendency to hydrate less may be more vulnerable during the cold weather. Older people may also be more inactive and those with dementia may dress inappropriately for the colder weather.
How do you keep well in cold weather?
Prepare for the cold weather by ensuring radiators are working and that the house can be adequately heated. Check that there are blankets and warm clothes in the house. Eating well can help your body stay strong during the winter and you can keep well during the cold winter months by ensuring that you are staying physically active and drinking plenty of water.
Your GP should be able to offer you a flu jab for free if you are over 65 years old and they can provide you with more information about keeping well during the winter.
Stay well by visiting your local pharmacist as soon as you start to feel unwell with symptoms of the winter virus.
If you do get ill, get plenty of rest, hydrate, and eat warm foods and drinks. Stay in bed if you are feeling tired and try to keep warm.
What to look out for in winter
Viruses may be more infectious during the winter months due to their ability to live longer outside the body when the air is less humid. Whilst viruses are alive and in the air, it is easier for people to inhale them and therefore contract the virus. We may also be more likely to pass it on to others due to spending more time indoors during the colder months.
Look out for signs of hypothermia and be aware of when you need to call for help. At first, someone may present with shivering and a lack of mobility in fingers and toes. At later stages shivering may be violent or it may stop and the person may act confused or slur their speech. Seek medical help if you are concerned that someone may be going into hypothermia.
Check that the heating is working and that bills have been paid for. Make sure that your loved one has appropriate clothing and plenty of warm foods to eat. If they struggle to cook every day, things like tinned soups, ready meals, and microwave food can be sufficient.
Make sure that icy drives and pathways are safe to walk on as these can be hazardous to elderly people who may struggle with balance.
Stay well this winter by following Government guidelines on Covid-19. Elderly people may be more vulnerable if they get Covid-19 and therefore it is advised that they try to isolate as much as possible. Supporting an elderly relative to remain at home may mean that they need someone to help them with grocery shopping and other tasks around the house. Having a live-in carer who is isolating with them can take away the worry you may have about getting into close contact with your loved one, if you do not live together.
Ideal room temperature for the elderly
The ideal room temperature for the elderly is at least 18°C (65°F). You might prefer to keep your main living room slightly warmer at around 20-24 degrees Celsius. It is important to ensure that rooms are sealed appropriately so air is not escaping so keeping windows and doors closed is recommended.
At night-time, blankets for the bed may help keep the elderly person warm and using flannel sheets, which are warmer, may be appropriate. Having slippers and a warm dressing gown to wear in the mornings can be comfortable and protect against the cold when the body’s metabolism is still not active.
Winter and hypothermia in the elderly
Staying warm in winter is important because it reduces the chances of hypothermia. Hypothermia is a condition in which the body temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius and can result in vital system injury and even mortality.
If someone’s house is especially cold and they are inactive this may be a sign of hypothermia. Similarly, if someone’s skin is cold and they are showing signs of confusion, sleepiness, and loss of coordination then these can also be signs of hypothermia. Often shivering or complaints about the cold might not be noticeable by this stage.
At this point, it is wise to seek medical assistance or go to the hospital immediately. If you are waiting for help to arrive then try to move the person to a warm and dry place. Remove any wet clothes and cover them with dry blankets. If they are conscious then a warm drink may also help.
Tips to keep your elderly loved one warm at home
Tips for keeping warm at home and therefore keeping well include the following:
- Eat nutritious and warm foods.
- Have smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
- Keep the home warm, ideally between 18-21 degrees Celsius.
- Have warm drinks.
- Drink enough fluids and water (8-10 glasses per day on average).
- Avoid drinking alcohol and beverages with caffeine.
- Avoid periods where you are sedentary, try to keep active and mobile to increase blood flow.
- Ensure a proper heating system is working throughout the home.
- If you are worried about heating costs, turn off the heating in rooms that are not being used.
You can read our more detailed guide in making sure your elderly relative’s home is safe here: How Safe is Your Loved One’s Home?
Tips to keep warm out and about
- Wearing a hat can help reduce the amount of heat lost from the body.
- Wear gloves to keep your hands warm.
- Wearing a scarf can add extra warmth.
- Wear warm clothes and try to layer them.
- Take transport where possible to reduce the likelihood of being out in the cold for an extended period of time.
- Take an umbrella if you think it might rain.
- Wear socks and waterproof shoes.
How can a live-in carer help?
Live-in care can be a fantastic solution to help your loved one feel supported during the Winter months. Elderly live-in care options can be tailored so that your loved one is receiving the right amount of support whilst still retaining their independence, where possible. Having someone living at home with your loved one can give you the peace of mind that they are staying warm and well both in the house and outdoors. If your loved one does fall ill with the flu then a carer can be on hand to help them recover during this time. A live-in carer can not only take over the household chores but they can also ensure that your loved one is taking appropriate medication, getting regular hearty meals, and having plenty of fluids.
How can we help?
At The Live in Care Company, we pride ourselves on arranging a live-in carer for elderly relatives or a loved one via a hassle-free and straightforward process. Our helpful team can support you with seeking the appropriate care for an elderly relative if you are worried about their health over the winter months. Home help services for the elderly are just as important in the winter than any other time of year, so contact us today and see how we may be able to help you. We are happy to be able to discuss all of the care options with you.
Our team will be on hand to speak with you and will take the time to help you understand your options fully before matching you with a well-suited live-in carer. If you’d like to know more or find out about our elderly live-in care services, you can fill in an enquiry form on our website, email [email protected] or call 0118 449 2373.