Winter weather can do more than make your teeth chatter. Windy days and freezing temperatures can also be tough on the skin, especially for seniors. Older adults are prone to age-related skin conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis. Both can leave skin feeling itchy and irritated year-round.
With frigid outdoor elements and drier air in the house caused by the furnace, it’s easy to see why winter can further exacerbate skin problems. While most people have their own skin care regimen, there are other steps older adults can take to protect their skin during the frostiest months of the year. Here are some to explore this winter.
Winter Skin Care Tips for Seniors
- Add humidity to the house: Unless the furnace in your house has a built-in humidifier, you’ll probably need to add moisture back into the air. One way is by setting the thermostat lower, especially overnight. It may also help to place humidifiers in the rooms you spend the most time in. A word of caution: make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for care, which usually include using distilled water and cleaning the unit frequently.
- Stay hydrated: Many people know to drink extra water when it’s hot and humid outside, but hydration is important in the winter, too. In addition to drying out skin, dehydration contributes to sagging skin, which makes you appear older. The general recommendation is to consume 8 to 10 glasses of water every day, but check with your physician to be sure.
- Don’t forget sunscreen: We generally think about layering on sunscreen on sunny summer days. It’s an essential step for guarding against skin cancers, like melanoma. Winter can be equally risky. The sun reflecting off of the snow can leave you with a painful “snow burn.” Make a habit of applying sunscreen every morning, but especially when you will be spending time outside or riding in a car.
- Change your moisturizer: Heavy moisturizers might leave your skin feeling greasy when it’s warm outside, but they are perfect for winter. Rich moisturizers for the face and body can protect your skin. This list of recommendations might help you find one you like.
- Take shorter showers: While a long, hot shower might sound inviting when you are cold, it can dry out your skin. Keeping the water lukewarm instead of hot and making showers brief is kinder on older skin. Apply a good quality moisturizer afterward, too.
- Bundle up outdoors: When the mercury falls below freezing, frostbite can occur fairly quickly. It is especially dangerous when it’s both cold and windy outside. Prevent skin damage by bundling up before you head outside. A hat, mittens or gloves, and a scarf to shield your face will help. Try to keep any area of your skin from being exposed.
Despite your best efforts, you might still experience dry and cracked skin this winter. It might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. The doctor can determine if there is an underlying health issue or allergy that might be causing your skin challenges.
More Winter Safety Tips for Seniors
If you are the family caregiver for a senior loved one, there are other winter hazards to be aware of. “Creating a Winter Safety Plan for a Senior Loved One” has good information that you might find useful.
The holidays are an eagerly anticipated time of the year in most families. People often decorate their homes with twinkling lights, freshly cut evergreen trees, and brightly colored ornaments. It provides a warm welcome to friends and loved ones throughout the season.
What isn’t welcome, but sometimes happens during the holidays, is home fires. This is the most common time of year for house fires. For seniors, it can be especially troubling. Although people over the age of 65 make up less than 15 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost 40 percent of all fire deaths.
From overloaded breakers to burning candles left unattended, it’s a good idea to learn more about unique seasonal fire hazards.
Tips for Preventing Holiday Home Fires
- Be cautious combining lights and fresh greenery.
In under 30 seconds, a Christmas tree fire can engulf the whole room. Taking steps to ensure your tree and other holiday greenery isn’t presenting a hazard is important.
- Place fresh greenery at a safe distance from open flames, including candles, fireplaces, and stovetops.
- If you display a real tree or greens, make sure they are fresh when you purchase them. Even greenery that looks fresh might not be. One way to assess freshness is by shaking greenery to see how many needles fall off.
- Water your tree and greenery daily. The lack of humidity indoors during winter months can cause them to dry out quickly. It also helps to mist garlands and greens with a spray bottle to keep them fresh longer.
- Purchase quality holiday lights and follow the instructions.
Lights are a holiday decorating tradition in many families. When not used properly, however, they can be a fire hazard. Here are a few precautions to keep in mind as you deck the halls:
- Use lights that have a UL tag, which indicates they were safety tested by Underwriters Laboratories.
- Check for any fraying on the cords and plugs.
- Use extension cords sparingly to avoid overloading the circuit.
- Follow the manufacturer’s directions to determine how many strands of lights can be safely strung together.
- Make sure to use indoor lights inside the home and only outdoor lights outside.
- Don’t leave the house or go to bed with the lights on. Use timers with your lights to ensure they turn off.
- Use real candles sparingly and with caution.
Candles are a staple for many people during Hannukah and Christmas. But safety experts say candle use causes home fires to spike during the holidays. Here are a few ways to use candles safely:
- Don’t leave a burning candle unattended.
- Be careful where you place a burning candle. Avoid setting them near curtains, towels, and flammable household cleaners.
- Be cautious of candle use if you have a pet. Cats and dogs might knock over a burning candle, resulting in a fire.
One last tip is to make sure you and your senior loved one’s homes have working smoke detectors in key areas. Make a plan for testing them regularly.
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My mom has been my dad’s primary caregiver for almost three years now. Winter is a tough time for her. My dad has mobility issues that make it difficult for him to get around, especially during bad weather. Even though I visit often, they are fairly isolated during the long Michigan winter.
My mom’s case of the blues seems to begin around the holidays and lasts until warmer weather returns. I’d like to prevent that from happening this year and wondered if you had any suggestions.
Luke in Gladwin, MI
Helping a Loved One Prevent Caregiver Depression
Winter can be a difficult season for many people, especially caregivers. Isolation is linked to a variety of health issues ranging from depression to weight gain. The coldest season of the year is also linked to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder. So, there are many reasons to take extra steps to prioritize mental health during the winter.
A few that might help you support your mother this holiday season and winter include:
When you are feeling blue, it is tempting to load up on comfort foods and sugary treats. While it can help in the moment, it actually makes the situation worse in the long run. Researchers have identified a link between diet and depression. People who follow a healthy diet are less likely to suffer from depression than those who consume processed foods and sugar.
The demands on a busy caregiver’s schedule might make exercise feel like a luxury. However, physical fitness is good for the body, mind, and spirit. Encouraging your mom to exercise thirty minutes most days of the week might help protect her mental health. Two fifteen-minute exercise sessions a day will yield the same results as thirty continuous minutes.
Sleep issues are another common challenge for family caregivers. Some people have trouble getting to sleep, while others can’t seem to stay asleep. This can occur for many reasons, most notably stress and fatigue. Regardless of the reason, sleep deprivation can contribute to seasonal depression. Talk with your mom to see if this is a problem for her. She may need to consult with her primary care doctor for advice if it is.
- Encouraging remote check-ins
Socializing is essential to feeling connected. Spending even a few hours a week with friends and family can restore the spirit and make a caregiver feel less alone. If your mom isn’t able to visit with friends and family in person this winter, use a video chat platform to connect virtually. During COVID-19 lockdowns, many people became comfortable using programs like Skype and Zoom for video chats.
- Considering respite care services
Caregivers need a break on a regular basis, including the holidays. Whether it’s a few hours a week or a couple of days a month, encourage your mom to take time for herself. Respite care at a senior living community can help. These short-term programs allow family members to keep a loved one safe while the caregiver takes a break.
I hope these tips are useful to you and your mom this winter!
Schedule a Tour of a Heritage Senior Community
Taking a proactive approach to caring for a senior loved one often includes researching local care options. With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage Senior Communities has a variety of locations from which to choose. Call us today to learn more and schedule a personal tour!
My dad and I have been my mom’s primary caregivers since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over three years ago. None of us were familiar with the disease or the unique challenges it would present. It’s been a real learning curve.
My dad and I are struggling to cope with a profound sense of loss, even though my mom is still with us. It seems like every day there is another change in Mom or something else she’s no longer able to do for herself. It’s so tough to witness this decline.
Do you have any suggestions for my dad and me? We want to be strong for my mom, but it’s getting more and more difficult.
Alysha in Midland, MI
Tips for Coping When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s
When a person has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, their family and friends all feel the impact of the diagnosis. Alzheimer’s is frequently referred to as the long goodbye because the disease slowly robs a person of their verbal skills, memory, and independence. Like you and your dad, loved ones of people with Alzheimer’s often say they feel a deep sense of sadness, helplessness, and frustration as the disease progresses.
While the physical demands of caregiving can cause loved ones to feel exhausted, the mental toll can be equally trying. These ideas might be helpful to you and your dad:
- Join a caregiver support group: Caring for someone you love when they have Alzheimer’s is different than caring for those with other types of life-limiting illnesses. Connecting with peers in a similar situation might be beneficial. The understanding and shared experience may bring you and your dad a sense of comfort. Some people might feel more comfortable joining a virtual support group than an in-person meeting. The Alzheimer’s Association has some virtual support group ideas for you to consider.
- Live in the moment: Of all the suggestions listed, this one might be the most beneficial but also the most difficult to carry out. Instead of focusing on what your mom has lost, try to live in the present. Meet your mom where she is in this journey, which can be different every day.
- Take a break: When you are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, the days can be hectic and stressful. Try to take time for yourself on a regular basis, even if it’s just to have lunch with a friend or take a quick walk.
- Learn to meditate: Many people find that meditation helps bring them inner peace during difficult times. If you haven’t tried it yet, there are a variety of options online for beginners. Watch Beginner’s Guide to Meditation and Guided Meditation for Seniors, Older Adults to get started.
- Try music therapy: Music offers therapeutic value to people of all ages. For people with dementia and their loved ones, it can be a way to connect after communication skills are impaired. Playing happy music might be a way for the three of you to enjoy your time together.
I hope some of these suggestions are useful to you and your dad, Alysha. I’m wishing your family all the best.
Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities
When a senior has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, specialized care can help them live their best quality of life. From our person-centered approach to care to an environment that promotes independence, Heritage Senior Communities are leaders in the field of dementia care. Call the community nearest you to learn more and schedule a personal visit soon!
My parents are both older and have been struggling to stay in their own home. I live several hours away from them on the opposite side of Michigan. In addition to having a family of my own, I work full-time outside my home. It makes it tough to be there as often as my parents need me.
I’ve just begun to research options for senior care and it’s a little confusing. My parents live in the house they bought together over 40 years ago. They raised their family there and have so many fond memories attached to their home. However, it’s not very senior friendly. It has old bathrooms and lots of stairs to navigate. I find myself worrying that one of them will suffer a fall.
It seems like home care could be an option, but assisted living might be a better choice. Can you please help me understand the differences between these two types of senior care? Any advice would be much appreciated.
Theresa in Grand Rapids, MI
Comparing Home Care with Assisted Living
This is a struggle we frequently hear from adult children. Their aging parents are unable to maintain their independence, and loved ones aren’t sure where to turn for help. The senior care industry has so many options available, it can be overwhelming. As you described, debating between enlisting the services of a home care agency or relocating to an assisted living community is common.
While both choices have similarities, there are distinct differences to better understand before making any decisions.
Home Care Basics
Home care, also referred to as in-home care or private duty care, brings services and support to people in their own house. It sometimes allows seniors to age in place, at least for a while. Depending on the older person’s situation, these professional caregivers help with anything from bathing and grooming to light housekeeping and meal preparation.
This type of senior care might be good for those who live independently and only need minimal to moderate assistance. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:
- Home care assists seniors with routine tasks, such as morning showers and meal prep. It does not help with tasks that occur at random times, like nighttime trips to and from the bathroom.
- Care is generally nonmedical in nature and doesn’t require a licensed nurse.
- While it can be cost effective, home care is meant for seniors who need only a few hours of support each day, not for extended periods of time.
- The older adult should live in a safe, senior-friendly home that doesn’t present fall risks.
Some families find home care is a good temporary solution while they search for an assisted living community. It helps keep senior loved ones safe so the family has time to make an informed decision for the future.
Understanding Assisted Living
Assisted living is often described as the best of both worlds: residents have their own apartment or suite, but caregivers are on-site around the clock. It’s a solution that allows older adults to maintain a greater sense of independence.
This type of senior housing can be ideal for people who:
- Have mobility problems that put them at higher risk for a fall.
- No longer drive a car and don’t have access to reliable transportation services.
- Aren’t willing or able to plan menus, go grocery shopping, or prepare well-balanced meals.
- Live with chronic medical conditions or are at risk for health issues linked to isolation, such as depression or cardiac disease.
- Have difficulty managing their medications, including taking the right dosage at the proper time.
- Are seeking an environment that makes it easier to make friends and stay actively engaged with life.
You might find the article “6 Ways Assisted Living Supports Independence among Older Adults” to be helpful in learning more.
If you have any more questions or would like to visit a Heritage Senior Community for a personal tour, please call us today! One of our experienced team members will be happy to help.