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Archive for December, 2019

Avoiding Cold and Flu This Winter Season

Tuesday , December 10 , 2019

Avoiding Cold and Flu This Winter Season

Germs: The gift that keeps on giving. If someone so much as sneezes in your general direction, it’s game over. Sniffles and coughs for week.

With cold and flu season fully under way, it’s the perfect time to discuss how NOT to get sick this winter.

Good news: You don’t have to avoid going in public for the next three months or skip out on any fun holiday parties.

The best thing you can do to avoid sickness and limit the spread of germs is to wash your hands. All it takes is a little soap and water, a few seconds scrubbing, and a quick rinse.

It couldn’t be easier!

Surprisingly, viruses that cause colds and the flu are most often transmitted on hands. Sick people rub their eyes or itch their nose, then touch things like door handles and handrails, and leave a trail of germs wherever they go. And studies show that contamination from just one germy door handle can infect an entire building within hours!

By washing your hands, you help rid yourself of germs you may have picked up from other people – and you also help make sure you’re not spreading your own germs around.

Here’s what you need to know:

When should you wash your hands?

Short answer: As often as possible.

Slightly longer answer: As you touch surfaces and objects through the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. This is especially true if you go out in public! While it’s impossible to keep your hands totally germ-free, frequent washing will make a big difference.

Always wash your hands:

  • Before preparing food
  • After using the toilet, changing a diaper, or cleaning up after a child who has used the toilet
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Before treating wounds
  • Before AND after caring for a sick person
  • After handling garbage
  • After coming home from a public place, such as a supermarket or restaurant
  • Whenever your hands are visibly dirty

How to wash your hands

It’s simple, right? Just turn on the water, use a little soap, rinse, and you’re done! Well, while those things are true, hand washing does require a bit more finesse.

Follow these steps every time:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (either hot or cold)
  • Apply soap and lather well
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds
  • Remember to scrub all areas, including backs of hands, between fingers, and above the wrists
  • Rinse well
  • Dry your hands with either a clean towel or an air dryer

It’s also worth noting that over-the-counter antibacterial soap isn’t any more effective than regular hand soap – so whatever you have on hand (both figuratively and literally) will do!

Don’t have time to wash? Use hand sanitizer instead!

We understand that sometimes you just don’t have time to wash, or maybe you don’t have access to a sink and soap. In those instances, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can do the trick.

Follow these steps:

  • Make sure you choose a sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol
  • Check the expiration date: All sanitizers have an expiration date on the dispenser after which time they start to lose their effectiveness
  • Apply the gel to the palm of one hand
  • Rub your hands together
  • Rub the gel all over the surface of your hands, fingers, and wrists until they are completely dry

It’s important to note that sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs (such as norovirus and Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea), and they likely won’t be effective if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

Bottom line?
Washing your hands is a quick and easy way to stay healthy this winter. There are no excuses NOT to do it!

Posted in: Health

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Winter Safety Tips for Older Adults

Wednesday , December 4 , 2019

Winter Safety Tips for Older Adults

Winter weather is bad for everything: Your car, your house, your knees, your heating bill. But it’s especially bad for older adults. According to the CDC, as people get older, they’re more likely to die from extreme cold or winter-weather events.

Senior citizens are less likely to sense cold than younger adults, and they don’t shiver as much, so they can’t generate as much heat. Other factors, such as thinning skin, lower muscle density, and side effects from medication can further add to the risk. It’s a recipe for disaster.

If you have elderly family, friends, or neighbors, check in with them this winter and share these safety tips:

Avoiding Frostbite and Hypothermia

Cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia for anyone, but the risk is especially high for people over the age of 65.

Hypothermia, a condition where the body temperature drops too low, can occur when you are out in the cold for an extended period. Similarly, frostbite occurs when your body experiences damage to the skin from extreme cold.

The key to avoiding both lies in staying covered up, warm, and out of the elements. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Don’t let indoor temperatures dip below 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Dress in layers
  • If you’re going outside, wear warm socks, a heavy coat, hat, gloves, and scarf
  • Cover all exposed skin
  • Stay dry

Your body temperature should never dip below 95 degrees – if it does, seek medical assistance immediately. Also, remember that shivering is not a good indicator of body temperature, as older adults tend to shiver less!

Stay Safe While Shoveling

Shoveling snow is one of the worst parts of winter, and NO ONE likes to do it. But while it might be an annoyance to you, it can pose a true danger to senior citizens. If your older loved one likes to do their own shoveling, make sure they take some precautions.

  • Ask the doctor whether shoveling snow is advisable
  • Remember that your heart works double time in cold weather and take frequent breaks
  • Wear comfortable, non-slip boots
  • As always, dress appropriately (several thin layers is better than one heavy layer)

Prevent Slipping on Ice

During the winter, icy sidewalks, snowy roads, and slippery steps make it easy to trip and fall. Unfortunately, falls are a common occurrence for older adults – especially during the colder months. Just one misstep can lead to a sprained ankle, fractured hip, or something much worse.

To help prevent slips and falls, take the following precautions:

  • Wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles
  • Replace worn cane tips
  • Consider an ice pick-like attachment that fits onto the end of the cane
  • Make sure steps and walkways are clear and salted before heading outside
  • Take off shoes once you return indoors to avoid making the floor wet

Stay Safe Indoors

During the winter months, many people choose to use a gas or kerosene heater, fireplace, or lantern to help keep warm. Unless they are properly vented and cleaned before use, they can leak carbon monoxide (the “silent killer”) into the home. These portable heat sources can also be fire hazards.

Before you use them:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors, if you don’t already have them
  • Replace batteries on your existing detectors
  • Call a professional to inspect chimneys and flues
  • Crack a window when using a kerosene heater
  • Make sure heaters are at least three feet from anything that might catch fire

If you think you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide, get outside immediately and seek medical attention.

Winter Storms and Power Outages

Depending on where you live in the country, winter weather can be a very serious problem. Here in the northeast, we often experience heavy snow and high winds – which often lead to power outages.

To help your older loved one stay prepared:

  • Stock up with at least seven days of food and water
  • Keep food items that are non-perishable, such as canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, etc.
  • Have a supply of flashlights and fresh batteries on hand in case the power goes out
  • Stockpile warm blankets
  • Stash some salt or cat litter to help your older loved on gain traction on icy surfaces
  • Get absorbent pads for pets who normally get walked outside

Fighting Seasonal Depression

Many people, both young and old, struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For older adults, who may already feel isolated and alone, it can be especially difficult. Cold air and bad weather can make it even more difficult to get out and see others, which can lead to loneliness and depression.

To help them beat the winter blues, arrange for family members, neighbors, and friends to check in often – even if it’s just by phone. You may also consider arranging transportation to and from an adult daycare a couple days a week, or even hiring a home aide to check in on occasion. Just a little bit of conversation can make a huge difference!

Final Thoughts

Winter can be tough – but a little preparation can make it a lot easier! Help your older adult make it safely through the winter by going over our checklist together and making sure they have everything they need.

Did we miss anything? What’s on your winter prep checklist that we didn’t cover?

Posted in: Aging

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