Winter advice for the elderly

While it's true that hospitals save lives, no one wants to spend more time than necessary in there. For older people, being admitted into hospital presents a risk in itself. Acquiring infections, muscle wastage through time spent in a hospital bed, and being in an unfamiliar environment can pose a risk to someone's health. So how can older adults stay well in the winter months and avoid hospital admission? In this post, we share some winter advice for the elderly.

'Warning signs' to look out for

With the right support at home, a lot of hospital visits could be prevented. According to statistics from 2015, 41% of the 18.7 million adults admitted to hospital the year before were 65+ years. And did you know that, according to the Department of Health, for people aged 80 years and over, 10 days spent in a hospital bed equates to 10 years of muscle wasting?

When it comes to preventing older people from being admitted to the hospital, it's important to be aware of the 'warning signs' and risks.
Being prepared means that you, as a family member, can be alert to signs that your loved one could be at risk of being hospitalised. If your relative has a chronic condition, history of falls, or any mobility issues, it's especially important to be vigilant.

Here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Missed doctor appointments or putting off medical appointments.
  • Inactivity.
  • Social isolation or signs of depression.
  • Problems with cooking and housekeeping.
  • Poor appetite or a change in weight.
  • Worsening of chronic conditions, like, for example, diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Disinterest in overall health, hobbies, and interests.
  • Confusion, which may be caused by Alzheimer's or dementia.Missed doctor appointments or putting off medical appointments.

But what else can you do to help a loved one avoid a hospital visit?

1. Keep health in check

Having an excellent GP is essential. But in order to stay healthy, it's important that older people carefully follow their GP's directions. Our CAREGivers are trained to spot 'red flags' or changes in health and behaviour, such as:

  • Worsening of existing or chronic conditions.
  • Unused medications.
  • Unusual behaviours.

On top of alerting family members and health professionals, they can also assist with transportation to appointments and help with medication management.

2. Keep physically and mentally active

Encourage your relative to stay active. Walking for just 5 or 10 minutes at a time several days a week is a great way to start. During the winter months, make sure they wear appropriate footwear and clothing and cover their heads to avoid losing body heat.

Keeping the brain active through activities such as drawing, doing a puzzle, or learning something new are also fantastic ways to stimulate the connection between nerve cells. If you want to find out more about how listening to music or learning to play an instrument can help, head over to our article: Benefits of music for the elderly.

3. Stay warm

With the cold weather, it's also important to stay warm and maintain a consistent body temperature where possible. Heat your home and draw curtains when it gets dark to prevent heat from escaping and air from coming in.

If you want to find out more about heating your home in the winter, you can read about the Cold Weather Payment and the Winter Fuel Payment. And for more information, you can read our article: Benefits for the elderly in the UK.

Also, the Age UK website has a great video on keeping well during the cold weather.

4. Maintain a healthy diet and keep hydrated

Your loved one should have plenty of hot meals during the winter and work towards a balanced diet containing plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, and starchy foods, such as wholegrain bread, pasta, and rice. Extra vitamin D and calcium should also be on the menu to prevent osteoporosis. If you want to find out more about eating well, head over to our article: Tips and advice to meet the nutritional needs of an elderly person.

Also, it is particularly important that your family member stays hydrated even if they say that they're not thirsty. It is advisable that they drink around 1.5 litres of fluid per day.

5. Companionship

Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health, so it's important to encourage social activities. Ideas include joining a social club or volunteering to reach out to others. Home care, which is at the heart of what we do here at Home Instead can help with this and more. To find out more about how you can help an elderly person, head over to our articles:

Would you like help to prevent hospitalisation for a loved one?

Our CAREGivers spend quality time with clients, forming a special relationship with them. This makes them perfectly placed to spot any changes to their wellbeing or any health problems. We help our clients by:

  • Encouraging older people to follow their GP's advice.
  • Being alert to symptoms.
  • Reducing the risk of falls and accidents.
  • Encouraging our clients to stay active, physically and mentally.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet.
  • Keeping their spirits up by offering companionship and dialogue.

If you would like to discuss how we might be able to help your loved one this winter (and beyond), feel free to get in touch for a Care Consultations where we can discuss your individual needs and requirements. Call us on 0208 0223276, pop into our branch, or fill in this form on our website, and we'll call you back.

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