The CareGiver Partnership: Fight Winter’s Risks to the Elderly

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The elderly are especially susceptible to trauma in the winter months, and it’s important to be aware of the risks, says Physician Assistant Dianna Malkowski for The CareGiver Partnership. Malkowski says now is the time to take extra precautions against slips and falls, hypothermia and the flu.

With the extreme cold weather and flu season we're experiencing, monitoring our seniors is more important than ever.

The elderly are especially at risk during weather extremes because of instability that can lead to slips and falls, physical changes that make it difficult to regulate body temperature and flu season, according to Dianna Malkowski, physician assistant, nutritionist and professional adviser for The CareGiver Partnership, a national retailer of incontinence products and other home healthcare supplies.

“With the extreme cold weather and flu season we’re experiencing, monitoring our seniors is more important than ever. If you have an elderly friend, relative or neighbor who lives alone, call or visit once a day. If you don’t live nearby, call daily or ask someone to check in on your loved one,” says Malkowski. “Keep emergency telephone numbers posted where your loved one and visitors can clearly see them, and consider equipping the home with a monitoring system, large-button amplified phone or cell phone like the My Health Phone, a phone that reminds users to check in with their caregivers.”

Preventing slips and falls: Canes with large quad bases can make walking safer and easier, especially on uneven surfaces. While rubber cane tips and bases can help with stability on slippery areas, it’s important to remove snow and ice accumulation. Seniors who use walkers may find models with large wheels, 8 inches or more, are easier to maneuver both indoors and out. See more.

Guarding against hypothermia: The elderly are at risk in cold weather because the body’s ability to maintain a constant internal temperature decreases with age. In addition to keeping homes warm inside, it’s important dress in warm layers outdoors, including hats, gloves and scarves to warm air before breathing it in. Because a fall outdoors is especially dangerous for a senior who’s alone, emergency monitoring pendants are life savers.

Fighting the flu: Older adults are at greatest risk of complications from the flu, including dehydration and pneumonia, according to the American Red Cross. If an elderly loved one becomes ill, encourage her to see her doctor and take her if necessary. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three ways to fight the flu: (1) getting a flu vaccine; (2) avoiding contact with germs; and (3) taking flu antiviral drugs if a doctor prescribes them.

Visit The CareGiver Partnership Web site for a free, downloadable, 25-page fall prevention guide.

Dianna Malkowski is a Board Certified Physician Assistant and Mayo Clinic trained nutritionist specializing in diabetes, cancer, wound healing, therapeutic diets and nutrition support. She serves on the board of professional advisers for The CareGiver Partnership and enjoys working with patients and caregivers alike. Ask Dianna a question.

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Tom Wilson
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