Winter can be a difficult time for senior citizens. Muscle aches, seasonal depression, or the simple, yet often evasive, act of staying warm. All can present significant challenges for those already struggling to stay comfortable and in good health.
To make the frostier months easier to bear, Luxe Care has put together some helpful suggestions:
Retaining Heat at Home:
- Keep windows and doors closed where possible. The heat escapes while the chill invades!
- Many modern heating systems and devices now have scheduling capabilities, meaning you can avoid bitter morning chills by setting a timer for 6AM or earlier.
- Place rugs on hardwood floors.
- Use door snakes to keep drafts out (or draft stoppers if tripping is a risk factor).
- Open curtains in any room the sun hits.
- Move your or your loved one’s favourite chair closer to sun-facing windows (this will also help with seasonal depression, more about this condition below)
Retaining Body Heat:
- Heat Retaining Clothing: Shirts, singlets and pants designed to retain heat are available at stores like Uniqlo, Kmart and Bonds.
- Layering: Wearing or dressing a loved one in a singlet, long sleeve shirt and jumper will help insulate body heat. Ensure backs and necks are covered.
- Heat Bags: Microwavable heat bags are available at most stores now to help with increasing body heat and soothing muscle pains.
- Hand and body warmers: Available at most chemists, and easy to use. Just “snap” the warmer or hold it in your hand and let it do the rest! Some warmers can be stuck onto clothing. Be sure not to stick onto or hold directly on skin.
- Socks or slippers: Cold floor tiling can contribute to decreased body temperature.
- When outside, utilise scarves, beanies and gloves.
- Check in with seniors regularly to ensure their body temperature is still comfortable for them. Everyone’s idea of “cold” is different!
Other Helpful Tips:
- Arrange flu shots and COVID boosters as early as possible.
- Ensure pets are let inside on cold nights.
- If you care for someone with dementia, be aware they may remove clothing or leave doors open without realising.
- A warm drink does wonders for the body and soul! As does soup!
- Muscle creams can alleviate aches and pains exacerbated by the cold.
- Some modern lamps can mimic the rise and fall of the sun to keep our sun exposure levels normal throughout the typically darker months.
- Keep drinking water: the cold weather can deceive us, but we still need just as much hydration as usual. Home heaters contribute to drier skin, lips and throats.
- Be aware of slip risks with socks or any new objects placed on floors/behind doors to combat drafts. Consider anti-slip socks or slippers for those who may be a falls risk.
- Sleeping in flannelette pyjamas/bedding, leaving heaters on overnight or using electric blankets can leading to extreme overheating. Ensure electric blankets are only used to warm the bed before getting in. Switch off when ready to sleep.
- Ensure all electronic heating devices are switched off at night or when no one is home.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) is a condition that worsens during the colder, darker months. Ongoing studies are showing a significant downtrend in mood and outlook when winter rolls in, across all age groups. Symptoms often include persistent low mood, loss of interest in everyday activities, increased feelings of despair and oversleeping or tiredness. While the specific cause of Seasonal Affective Depression is currently unknown, health website Mayo Clinic states several possible factors include your circadian rhythm being displaced due to a decrease in sunlight, diminished serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) and melatonin imbalance brought on by the change in season. Low levels of vitamin D can also trigger Seasonal Affective symptoms, as well as bipolar disorder and major depression.
Alleviating SAD Symptoms
Experts recommend light therapy as a solution for alleviating SAD. Mayo Clinic states that lamps and lights designed to mimic sunlight “appear to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood”. This is an easy and accessible solution, with people finding a short period of exposure to such lights each day do help to relieve their symptoms. Light therapy lamps are available online from Amazon or in-store at Dick Smith or Harvey Norman. Similarly, going for walks during the daylight hours can help alleviate symptoms. Just remember to rug up!