Monday, November 28, 2011

Wintertime Maladies: Avoid Them!

Wintertime is creeping in. The days are getting shorter and colder. With these changes come the increased threat of illness, especially for those most vulnerable—the elderly.

Take the proper precautions for your loved ones, and stave off wintertime infirmity.

Get a flu shot
As we age, our immune system weakens. The seasonal flu then poses a more serious threat. What begins as common influenza can escalate into pneumonia or bronchitis among those whose bodily defenses are weakened by age. Avoid a potential hospital visit. Get a flu shot.

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Furnace check
We all want to stay warm in the winter. It’s more than a matter of preference for the elderly, it’s critical to their health to stay warm.

The human body reacts to cold temperatures by constricting its blood vessels. Though the constriction helps conserve heat and maintain body temperature, it also increases one’s blood pressure. For those already experiencing cardiovascular issues, this can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke during the winter months.

It is important to schedule an annual furnace tune-up. The furnace kicks into high gear in the winter months. Make sure all parts are in working order. This will help you or loved one avoid wintertime furnace malfunctions, stay warm, and avoid health risks.

Installing a humidifier can help allay wintertime infirmities as well. Many viruses like low humidity. With the installation of a humidifier, these unwelcome guests won’t be able to thrive in the moist air. 

The recommended level is between 30% and 50%. Above or below this range, you create prime conditions for such unwanted guests as mold and viruses.

Avoid falls
Winter weather—snowy white and glistening ice—can be beautiful. It can also be dangerous. Inclement weather increases the risk of falls. Make sure the snow is shoveled and the sidewalk is salted.

Hire a teen from the neighborhood to keep up on snow removal. That way, when mom or dad goes out for the mail, you can rest assured they’ll do so safely.

Fall Maintenance
Inspect the house for needed repairs, window drafts, roof leaks, etc. Take care of them before the weather turns. Winter proofing the home by addressing repairs early on will help keep you or your loved one warm, cozy, and healthy.

Can’t afford repairs? You can find grant-funded assistance from programs like Habitat for Humanity. Contact your local chapter for more information.

Don’t Do it Alone
If you serve as caregiver for a family member, it’s unrealistic to believe you can do it all. You can’t be there every waking hour to assure the health and safety of your loved one. Don’t stress. Turn to the neighbors, the mailman, your sibling, etc. Inquire about their interactions with your loved one. They may be able to offer insight into the overall wellbeing of your elderly family member.

These tips can help you or your loved one ward off the winter chill and enjoy a happy, healthy holiday season.

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