How can I prepare my mother for winter?

A series of articles by various writers on medical topics this one is by Edel Rooney.

With winter approaching, I’m worried about my 83-year-old mother.  She still enjoys an active lifestyle.  How can I help prepare her for the change in seasons so that she remains healthy all winter?

 

The first thing you should do is to make sure all of your mum’s doctor’s visits are up to date.  Find out if your mother could benefit from a flu shot by contacting her GP.  If your mother’s doctor recommends any special winter-weather regimen – like variations in diet or vitamins – remind your mother that it’s time to start observing those again.

As soon as the weather cools down, talk with your mother about the need to dress properly.  Several layers of loose-fitting clothing can help insulate the body by trapping warm, dry air inside.  Loosely woven cotton and wool clothes best trap air and resist dampness.

The head and neck are among the most vulnerable parts of the body when the weather cools down.  They lose heat faster than anywhere else.  Cheeks, ears and nose are the most prone to frostbite.  That’s why your mother should always be wearing a hat and scarf to protect her.

If the weather gets rainy or snowy where your mother lives, make sure that any outdoor repairs have been made.  Loose railings and cracked paths should be repaired well in advance of inclement weather.  Check inside too. Are there any draughty windows or doors that need to be repaired. If her house is large, suggest she closes off some rooms during the winter months to save on heating. Lock the windows, draw the curtains and check the ventilation grille is clear before putting a draught excluder at the door and closing it up until the warmer weather returns.

Ice is a big danger so make sure you, or someone else, is on stand-by to automatically pop over to your mum’s house if there is a frosty night. Get them to check the steps and/or path outside her door and if necessary salt the path at night to prevent ice build up. If she has steps outside consider adding a safety handrail.

Eating properly is important too. It can be all too easy to start relying on convenience foods, particularly if the weather outside doesn’t make you want to go out. So make sure your mum has plenty of healthy staples in her cupboards. Soup is ideal and easy to prepare as well as being warming. If your mum isn’t up to cooking for herself you could leave a flask of hot soup available to get her through the day or check if a local Meals-on-Wheels service is available in her area. Encourage her to take regular hot drinks too to keep her hydration and temperature levels up.

It may be time for your mother to have a little extra help to ensure her safety, especially in the winter.  Home helpers and companions can assist your mum with errands and shopping when the weather is bad and she doesn’t want to get out.  They can become trusted friends as well as assistants for seniors like your mum.  It’ll also give you peace of mind to know there’s someone keeping a regular eye on her when you can’t be there.

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