If retail stores are any indication, the height of winter has been coming on for a long time, but the reality is that now – before the holiday season hits critical mass -- is well and truly the time for older adults to be sure they have all the boxes checked before hunkering down for the winter months ahead.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
-Prioritize a flu shot
Each year more than 200,000 people will be hospitalized because of the flu, and 36,000 of them will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Flu tends to hit people over 65 the hardest, so getting an annual flu shot is paramount to senior health.
-Schedule a well visit
Many seniors spend so much time concentrating on specific health issues that they overlook the importance of the well visits we all should have every year. Taking time for a well visit gives seniors the chance to receive important annual health screenings and discuss any overall health issues that they haven't covered in their as-needed appointments.
-Map out medical contingencies
-Even when the weather is cooperating, the winter months can make it more difficult for seniors to get out to fill their prescriptions and keep important appointments. Before the hectic-ness really sets in, sketch out a Plan B (and, ideally, a Plan C and D) to ensure that there are no excuses standing in the way of keeping necessary doctor's appointments and prescriptions filled.
-All systems go?
Check that the heat is in working order and that pipes are not in danger of freezing. While you're at it, make sure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are doing their job.
-Nix manual labor
Even when they feel up for the task, people over 65 should avoid activities that involve high ladders, heavy lifting and other tasks that might cause them to fall or over-exert themselves. Make a list of all the hard labor household activities that need to happen this winter, such as cleaning gutters, hanging holiday lights, shoveling or de-icing, and delegate helpers or hire someone to help.
-Stock up the coffers
Be sure that the refrigerator and pantry are well-stocked in case getting out becomes an issue for a few days, or even weeks. Also, if you know a senior who lives alone, try to check up on them, or ask someone to do so, periodically throughout the season.
As we head into the winter months, it is also important for seniors to make sure their emergency contact list is up-to-date. These worksheets and checklists can help.
For more information about senior well-being, please contact Home Instead Senior Care of Central Oregon at 541-330-6400.
Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.
Each Home Instead Senior Care franchise is independently owned and operated.