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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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Helping Older Adults Have A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

Monday , November 18 , 2019

Helping Older Adults Have A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

With the holidays right around the corner, many older adults and their loved ones are anxiously awaiting Thanksgiving. But even though the holiday is a joyous time for gathering with family and enjoying a meal, it can be overwhelming for some.

Many seniors deal with physical limitations, dietary restrictions, emotional health issues, and more that can make holidays difficult. Some are facing their first Thanksgiving without their spouse. Others don’t have family nearby and will be spending the holiday alone.

If you’re a family member or caregiver for an older adult, a little advance planning can help make all the difference. Here are some tips for making Thanksgiving a stress-free, special day for the seniors in your life:

Get Their Input

Many younger adults feel like taking on the holiday meal planning takes the stress off older adults, finally giving them a chance to “rest.” Unfortunately, a complete lack of input can actually make your older loved one feel left out and ignored. Regardless of their current health status, help your older adult feel involved by asking for suggestions on menu, décor, guest list, or anything else they may be able to help with.

Make Travel Arrangements

If your older loved one is travelling from a long distance to get to your house, consider enlisting some volunteers to bring them along. Many older adults are no longer comfortable driving, especially at night. Keep in mind that they may need trunk space for a wheelchair or walker, and items such as a lumbar support cushion or travel pillow may be appreciated. (Note: If they’re coming from an especially long distance, plan for a few bathroom breaks!)

Remove Safety Hazards

If you’ll have an older adult visiting your home for the holiday, keep in mind that many seniors have physical limitations. Before their arrival, remove any hazards (such as loose cords or area rugs) that could lead to trips and falls and make sure the bathroom is easily accessible. Also consider seating your loved one at the end of the table, so they can easily et up and move around if necessary.

Offer Appropriate Meal Options

Just like you wouldn’t invite over your vegan friends and only offer turkey, you shouldn’t invite seniors without considering their dietary needs. Most older adults have limitations to what they can and cannot eat – for instance, many seniors are on a low-sodium diet and should be offered an appropriate option.  In addition, older taste buds can make certain foods intolerable, and dentures can make it difficult to chew things like meat and especially crunchy vegetables.

Note: Many older adults get tired earlier in the evening than their younger compatriots and a nighttime meal can be exhausting. It can be especially tough for those who suffer from dementia, as they often become more confused and agitated in the evening hours. If you’re hosting an elderly guest this Thanksgiving, consider having lunch instead of dinner!

Help Them Feel Included

Large holiday meals often find several generations all seated around the same table. It’s easy for any one person – especially if they’re quiet – to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure that doesn’t happen to your older loved one by making it a point to include them in conversation and activities. One idea I love: During the meal, try to bridge generation gaps by asking everyone to share something, like their proudest moment of the year, or the thing they are most thankful for.

Final Thoughts

Holidays and other events that change the daily routine can be quite stressful and tiring for the elderly. Providing your older loved one with the support they need can help make the day more enjoyable for everyone.

One option? Consider hiring a caregiver to help out just for the day. They can make sure your older loved one has everything they need, while also allowing you the time to tend to dinner, socialize with other guests, and keep the party moving along!

Posted in: Aging

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Caring For A Loved One After Joint Replacement Surgery

Monday , November 4 , 2019

Caring For A Loved One After Joint Replacement Surgery

Joint replacement may seem like an “old person” surgery, but creaky knees know no age! In fact, I can distinctly remember my father having both knees replaced when he was only in his early 40s. And a friend of mine – just 37 years old – recently had both hips replaced.

There are a variety of reasons adults (both young and old) might need joint replacement surgery. For my dad, it was a career in the military and years of physically demanding work that destroyed his knees. And my friend’s hips were ruined after several rounds of cancer-killing radiation were directed at her pelvis.

No matter how old your loved one is when they have a joint replaced, they will need a helping hand to assist them through the various phases of surgery – both before and after. If you’re about to step into the role, understand that it can be a time-consuming and demanding task (but also incredibly rewarding).

Here are some of the ways you can help make the process a little easier:


Preparing Your Home For Recovery 

Every joint replacement patient has different needs, and the restrictions they face after surgery will depend on several factors. Still, many people find it helpful to set up a “recovery room” on the first floor of the house. This room should include:

  • Easy access to a nearby bathroom OR a bedside urinal/commode (Note: It may be necessary to install grab bars in the bathroom)
  • A bed that isn’t too high off the ground
  • A telephone or cellphone (with charger) to call for help
  • Bandages and other supplies necessary for wound care
  • A walker or crutches, if needed
  • Open walkways, without rugs or electrical cords in the way
  • Comfortable clothing and shoes that are safe for walking around the house
  • A variety of snacks and beverages
  • Several entertainment options (books, crosswords, television, etc.)


During the recovery phase, your loved one may need significant assistance in their activities of daily living.

  • Medication: Depending on the type of surgery, it is not unlikely that one of more medications will be required. Ask the doctor if she can provide the prescriptions in advance, so you can have them ready and waiting at home prior to surgery.
  • Meals and snacks: If you will not be living in your loved one’s home full-time, it is vital that they meals they can quickly and easily make on their own. Try preparing a few options in advance that can be quickly reheated in the microwave – or provide quick meals that don’t have to be heated at all.
  • Wound care: Your loved one will likely have bandages and dressings that need to be changed daily (or more). If possible, meet with your loved one’s doctor in advance to learn proper techniques and safety procedures before outpatient care begins. 
  • Household tasks: Depending on the type of joint replacement your loved one receives (knees, hips, etc.), they may not be able to stand or bend for a period of several weeks. This typically means that most household chores are out of the question. Plan to take on these tasks on your own or arrange for outside help. 
  • Doctors appointments: Post-surgery, your loved on will likely have several follow-up appointments within the first four – six weeks. Missing an appointment can leads to setbacks and complications, so it’s vital to take these follow-ups seriously. 
  • Activity: Exercising can have a big impact on a patient’s recovery. Your loved one’s doctor will likely prescribe a home exercise program in addition to outpatient rehab. Help them chart their efforts and results, and provide the motivation to stay on track.
  • Paperwork: As with any surgery, joint replacement comes with a lot of paperwork. On top of the discharge orders provided by the hospital, your loved one will likely receive reports at each follow-up visit – and an absolute flurry of bills in the mail. Help them stay on top of things by organizing everything in an accordion folder or binder with tabs for each type of correspondence.


Remember during this difficult time that it is also important to take care of YOU. It’s easy for caregivers to fall into the trap of constantly providing and never receiving – and that is a quick road to burnout. Remember to:

  • Take breaks
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Make time for exercise
  • Maintain outside interests
  • Stay in touch with family and friends
  • Get enough sleep

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this is not the time to grin and bear it. Your lack of wellness won’t only affect you, it will also affect the quality of care you can provide to your loved one. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you need it!

Final Thoughts

Proper preparation can help you provide the best care possible for your loved one after their joint-replacement surgery. Recovery can be difficult, but it will be a lot easier with you helping out!

Posted in: Home Care

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