How older people can stay healthy as winter approaches

The pandemic has drawn our attention to the importance of staying healthy through the winter months – and this is especially true for people who are older, or those who are suffering from life-limiting illnesses.

This winter, the focus will not only fall on preventing the flu, as is normally the case this time of year, but with the need to take additional measures to also protect ourselves against COVID-19.

The following are a few suggestions to help keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe this winter:

  1. Stay warm

Older people don’t have the same ability to tolerate fluctuating temperatures as they did when they were younger, and need something extra to stay warm. In this regard, caretakers and family members will find that a few layers of clothing instead of a single chunky layer is more efficient, along with an extra blanket or two on the bed and on the chair.

If you’re using hot water bottles or an electric blanket in bed, take care not to use these two together, and make sure that the heat of the electric blanket is not turned up too high, to prevent burns.

  • If possible, stay active

Another way of staying warm when temperatures drop is to stay active. During the day, when it is more bearable to do so, a quick walk around the garden can do wonders for the body.  It can also invigorate the mind and do a lot to soothe mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. If a person isn’t able to walk by him or herself anymore, even simple armchair exercises may be enough to get the heart rate up and the blood pumping.

  • Ensure they are eating a healthy diet

Our eating habits play an important role in our overall health.  Even though we tend to gravitate towards hearty, carbohydrate-rich meals like stews, we should try and ensure that older people, and those living with life-limiting illnesses, still consume plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit as part of a healthy diet. If needs be, and if recommended by a primary care physician, use supplements (vitamins B, C, D, along with zinc and probiotics) as well as nutritional shakes to make up for any shortfalls.

  • Stay hydrated

It is easier to ensure that our loved ones are drinking enough water in summer, but making sure they are hydrated can prove more difficult during the colder months. While we all tend to drink more hot beverages like coffee and tea in the winter, it is important to remember that caffeinated drinks can lead to dehydration, which can lead to further problems. Keep track of the amount of water being consumed every day to prevent this.

It goes without saying that people are more likely to get sick in winter than they are in summer. When it comes to older family members, it is especially important to ensure that they stay healthy. Simple things like good eating habits and some activity during the day make a huge difference when it comes to overall health and wellbeing.  Remember to show you care by visiting them and making regular phone calls.

To find out more about the palliative care services offered by HospiceWits in the greater Johannesburg region, click here.