By: Badia Harlin, DNP, MS, BSN, FNP-C Senior Health and Wellness Center Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital, Fort Worth
As the winter season ushers in, so does the increase risk for harm to our older population. During the winter months there is a rise in health aliments, physically and mentally, along with increased risk for falls. As a community we need to band together and assist our elderly as much as possible with “winter” duties.
The colder temperatures have a greater effect on cardiac events due to constriction to the arteries along with increased blood pressure. Respiratory type infections are more likely during this time of year as well. Being isolated during the winter months can cause depression in the senior population due to a decrease in daylight/lack of sunshine. Inclement weather and dangerous roads can make travel difficult to get out and visit with family and friends, further leading to feelings of isolation.
Fall rates for individuals 65 years of age and older also increase during the colder months, October to March. It has been found that more hip fractures occur during cold weather months among people between the ages of 65 and 79.
Be proactive in your preparations for the upcoming chilly weather. Check out these recommendations for a healthy and engaged winter season:
- Get up to date on vaccinations: influenza and pneumonia
- Cover mouth and nose with scarf (protects lungs) while outdoors in cold temperatures.
- Layer clothing when outside for added warmth
- Wear gloves or mittens to keep hands warm and protect from frostbite
- Visit your senior family and friends often during the winter months
- Ask family members or neighbors to assist with snow/ice removal
- If you or a loved one uses a cane, replace the rubber tip before it is worn smooth
- Wear proper shoes or non-slip surface footwear in the house to prevent falls
- Establish a winter emergency plan
Following these simple suggestions will get you through the winter months to enjoy time with family and friends.