Families Urged to Look Out for Signs Seniors Need Help, Especially in Cold Weather


Posted: January 25, 2011 at 10:34 p.m.


1. The house is cold, the telephone is cut off.

2. Losing track in a conversation, forgetting the names of children, grandchildren, the day of the week, etc.

3. The death of a spouse.

4. The refrigerator and cupboards are half empty even though you know the relative can still get out.

5. Personal hygiene is poor.

6. Constantly making excuses when asked to go somewhere or do something, or wanting to be alone.

7. Sudden weight loss.

8. Never cleaning or delaying home repairs.

9. Failure to take prescribed medications.

10. Behavior changes.

It’s heartbreaking and overwhelming to watch your elderly loved one decline into someone who needs constant care. But with 36 million seniors living in the U.S. and the elderly population projected to double, caring for a senior loved one is a reality most people will face.

That’s why Senior Helpers, a leading provider of in-home senior care, advises family members to learn the signs your senior relative needs assistance.

“It’s much better to arrange for help for elderly family members while they can still be part of the process rather than during a crisis because it gives everyone time to make thoughtful decisions,” Dale Clinton, managing partner of Senior Helpers in Rogers and Ft. Smith, said. “Seniors often believe getting help means moving out of their house and that’s where the resistance to any kind of help comes in, but many times in-home care is a better option.”

Clinton said that the best way to keep track of a senior family member’s situation is to keep in touch with them.

“Visit or call often and use one of the warning signs as a way to approach the topic if needed” he said. “If you can’t be there, hire an in-home caregiver.”

Senior Helpers’ elderly care experts remind people to respect a senior family member’s pride and dignity when discussing the need for assistance. Approach the topic with respect and understanding and express concern for the family member’s safety. The warning signs could be an indication of many issues, so if there’s a health concern it’s important to contact a doctor.

When the weather reaches extremes is a time to keep an even closer eye on seniors.

“With an already brutally cold January this year, taking a few minutes to check on elderly neighbors and family members can make a huge difference,” Clinton said.

Some basic physiological differences make seniors much more prone to health problems related to the cold. Older adults have slower metabolisms, so their bodies don’t generate heat as quickly as younger people do to withstand colder environments. Many seniors also suffer from poor circulation, meaning their bodies struggle to pump blood to their arms, legs, hands and feet. This makes them more easily susceptible to hypothermia, frostbite and other common cold weather conditions.

“As we work with local seniors living on their own each day, we see the additional stress cold weather can bring,” Clinton said. “It is absolutely vital that families take precautions to keep seniors safe through the winter months because many times, seniors simply don’t or can’t take the necessary steps on their own.”

For more information on Senior Helpers in this area, visit www.seniorhelpers-arkansas.com or call 479-246-9000 (toll free at 877-246-9593).

Senior Helpers’ Winter Weather Prep List:

1. Keep thermostat in senior’s home between 68 and 70 degrees – this may mean a small additional expense, but it’s a necessary one.

2. Use electric space heaters – these are an economical way to heat a small space, such as a bedroom or den. Use heaters with modern safety features, like an automatic shut-off. Be sure to keep the heater at a safe distance from furniture, curtains, bedding, etc.

3. Choose clothes wisely – dress for warmth during the day by layering loose-fitting, lightweight garments. Tight clothes and long underwear can actually restrict blood flow if they do not fit correctly.

4. Extra blankets on the bed – a helpful tip that works to trap warmth between layers.

4. Mittens instead of gloves – mittens keep hands and fingers warmer than gloves because the fingers can touch each other, generating warmth.

6. Eat plenty; eat right – Body heat is generated by burning calories. Without a proper steady diet, a senior’s body can quickly run out of fuel.

7. Check rubber tips on canes or walkers – If they are old and worn, these tips can become slippery on snow, ice or wet surfaces and cause slipping or falls.

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