It’s an unavoidable fact of life that you will get older and with age sometimes comes a limited ability to be involved in the social activities you may have enjoyed in years past. As parents of young children, it’s likely that your life was very busy. This most likely was followed by an empty nest as which point you may have developed a social life completely your own! However, as you age you may find yourself relying on your grown children, especially if you’re facing health issues. Simply because you’re aging doesn’t mean you need to pull a rocking chair out to porch and watch life pass you by. Staying active, both emotionally and physically, will help you age more productively.
While you have to accept and modify your life based on the aches and pains that come with old age, you certainly can remain active and viable. Remaining active will help you enjoy your Golden Years much longer and with more joy.
Whether your family lives close by or whether you’re involved in your church or other community activities, it’s important to have contact with “the outside world.” Isolation can lead to loneliness and depression. Staying in touch with friends and keeping up with current events will keep you more in touch with your surroundings and will also give you something to talk about when your family comes to visit. Social contact simply adds value to your life and gives you something to look forward to.
Consider teaching a class at a local senior center. If you have a passion for painting or a love of gardening or are an avid knitter or woodworker, ask whether you’d be able to teach a class. You can teach to your peers or even to the younger generation.
If your friends and family are scattered geographically you will want to try and keep in touch and you can do this through telephone calls, the exchange of letters or if you’re tech-savvy through email or even sites such as Skype.
Check with the YMCA for exercise classes for the elderly, talk with members of your church about activities in which you could become involved. Ask your church if it is in need of volunteers; this is a great way to stay involved and active.
Staying involved is simply healthy but regardless of how active you are, when you’re home alone you may want to talk to your family members about signing up for a home medical alert service and ask them to work with you to make certain your home has been “age proofed” to prevent any trip or fall hazards. A home medical alert device can also add to your safety, security and allow you to remain independent in your own home.
Caregivers understand that taking care of aging parents is a year round task but that is sometimes made even more difficult in the winter months. Winter and cold climates are difficult for almost anyone to deal with, but it is even harder for seniors and those who care for them. When the temperatures fall and the snow flies, safety challenges for aging loved ones increase.
The American Geriatric Society reports that older adults have a slower metabolism and because of this they have a hard time generating their own body heat and can become ill more quickly. Also, if the senior is afflicted by poor circulation, their ears, feet, hands and nose will be more affected by the cold. They have a hard time feeling warm and because of this it’s crucial that they stay bundled up when they’re outside and have dress in layers when they’re indoors.
Here are strategies to keep in mind for your aging relatives’ safety in the cold winter months:
- Make sure the thermostat is set between 68 and 70 degrees. The thermostat set at that temperature will definitely add to their heating bill, but it is a necessary expense for their safety.
- Make certain your aging relative has access to additional clothing so they can layer it on to keep warm. Advise them to wear layers of loose-fitting garments.
- Space heaters can help keep a small area, such as the bedroom, warm and allows the senior to lower the heating in the rest of the house at night. Be sure the space heater is only used as directed and that it has all of the necessary safety features to keep your relative warm and safe.
- Pile some additional blankets on the bed to keep them warm while they’re sleeping. If they choose not to use a space heater and want to save money on the heat bills, additional blankets will keep them warm during the night. Don’t use electric blankets because they can sometimes get too warm and can damage the delicate skin of the elderly.
- If your elderly relative needs to go outdoors when you aren’t there to supervise (if they have to get their mail or walk the dog, for example) make certain they dress in layers, wear mittens (instead of gloves because mittens will keep their hands warmer) and a hat, scarf and boots. Make certain that even when they’re dressed in layers outdoors that they can still easily reach their medical alert pendant. In the event they fall while outside, one push of the button will alert the emergency response team and medical help will be dispatched if needed.
- If they must go outside, additional care must be taken when it comes to ice and snow. Snow-melting rock salt should be readily available so they can sprinkle it on the steps before they go outside. If possible, hire a neighbor to keep their porch clear of snow and ice for those occasions when you can’t make it to check on them. Again, knowing your elderly loved one is wearing his or her medical alert device at all times will offer you both peace of mind in the event of a slip or fall.
- Healthy meals are a must year round, but especially in the winter. Eating well-balanced meals are important to keeping the body’s internal heat up. Fill up on warm foods like soups and oatmeal – these are nutritious and comforting.
- Make certain, too that if your elderly relative is paying her own bills that they are current on them, especially gas and electric bills.
- If you live far away and can’t visit on a daily or every other day basis, look for local senior citizen agencies to see if they provide any kind of a “senior buddy visit” program or see if there are members from their church who would come and visit.
With pre-planning and additional attention to the comfort and safety of your aging loved one you can rest assured that they will be safe throughout the winter. The addition of a home medical alert system in their home, too, will add to the peace of mind both you – as the caregiver – and your aging relative need. With a home medical alert system, you can rest assured that if your loved ones falls or suffers another medical emergency, at the push of a button, emergency medical personnel will be dispatched.