Has anyone else noticed that we are overdue for the January thaw? Sustained cold temps can really take a toll on us - both inside and out. Your hands and feet are always cold and neither the sky nor your outlook on life are sunny! Long stretches of sub-zero temps can pose particular problems for seniors and caregivers. As we age, our bodies don’t retain heat as well. While younger adults may feel a little chilly, seniors can often feel unbearably cold, exacerbating common conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, making for a constant, and unwelcome drumbeat of pain. Supporting and even visiting elderly family and friends during the winter seems a Herculean effort when compared with the same task in June. Trips to the grocery are delayed or derailed by snow and ice, buses are late, medical appointments are missed, lovely luncheons cancelled. So, if we must make like bears and hibernate, how can we do it safely and in style?
Here are three tips for caregivers and seniors for staying warm, healthy, and happy until those April showers are bringing the May flowers:
Keep the Heat In
Heating your home to 70 degrees in the Winter can be prohibitively expensive and is just not an option for many of us. Many communities have assistance programs to help low- and fixed-income customers pay for gas and electric. The Ontario Energy Board has LEAP - the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. Here is their website: https://www.oeb.ca/rates-and-your-bill/help-low-income-consumers . If the sun does make a rare appearance, open the drapes on the South side of the house to take advantage of some free solar heating and (and energizing light) and keep the drapes drawn in the evenings to shut out the wind and cold. Space heaters can be great IF they are used safely. Select a new model, with a built-in shut off, place them and their cords out of your walking path and never use them near drapes or furniture or leave them unattended. More here from Fire Prevention Canada: www.fiprecan.ca/winter-safety/ Is the wind whistling through your house? Weather stripping your doors and windows will keep you warmer, and help you save big on heating costs long term.
Layers are the key to staying warm. Start with a thin layer next to your skin, move on to a turtleneck or a warm shirt and top it off with a stylish sweater! If you get too hot, just peel off a layer! Caregivers can play a role here in helping to select clothing that is easy for your loved ones to put on and take off without assistance. We all remember those days when our mothers packed us so snugly into snowsuits that we could barely move! That’s not what we are going for here! If mobility is an issue, zippers and velcro closures are great alternatives to over-the-head items. Apply the same principle when you head outdoors. A walk on a cold, sunny day can be energizing, but make it easy on yourselves - have your battle dress at the ready! Bundle up with a thick coat, scarf, gloves, hat, boots, and even hand and boot warmers. Hypothermia (low body temperature) has dangerous consequences and it can happen faster than you think.
Gathering Winter Fuel (With apologies to Good King Wenceslas)
In the best of times, older adults often struggle with diet and nutrition due to changes in metabolism, medications, or simply the physical challenges of shopping and cooking. But eating right can help regulate body temperature and energy levels, and preparing food together can be fun! Caregivers, break out the crock pot and try making some hearty soups, stews, or chili. Or even doctoring up something from a can. The flavors and spices warm you up, boost your metabolism and the proteins and healthy fats keep you feeling fuller longer and give you energy. I bet you’re already picturing yourselves dunking that grilled cheese into your tomato soup!
Exercise is another way to boost your body temperature, your immune system, and even your appetite. It is always best to check with your doctor first, but small hand weights, chair yoga, a recumbent bike, and even just beating a path around your house are a great way to beat the Winter blues!
Sinclair Lewis did a great job of summing it up: Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation. While you might not get paid to do this job, your efforts will surely pay off!
Want to know more? Want to share a hot tip for staying warm and healthy when the days are short and frosty? Contact us. We would warmly welcome your call and be happy to discuss ideas options for you and your family members.