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Winter Guide for Caregivers

Kevin Cleary

Being a caregiver to anyone is a large responsibility. You are now responsible for the safety and well-being of another human being. That can be intimidating and a little scary. This important job can be made even more difficult with the conditions that winter brings. Cold dry air presents a unique set of issues as well as snow and ice all around us. What complicates the equation more is that not only must the caregiver be mindful of who they are caring for, but they must also make sure that they keep themselves safe at all times as well.

Winter Threats

                The arrival of winter presents a unique set of challenges for everyone, let alone someone who requires everyday assistance doing simple tasks. When we think of winter we think of dark, cold days and even colder nights. Unfortunately, this is completely true but what accompanies cold, dark days can be snow, ice, and cold dry air devoid of moisture. Each of these presents its own unique problem. These problems can include:

  • Falls
  • Slips
  • Limited eyesight (due to darkness)
  • Dry skin
  • Dry sinuses and throats

Many of these may seem trivial and innocuous, but for those who require assistance or help getting around they can be major obstacles. For caretakers, they need to keep their charges safe but at the same time they need to make sure they do not injure themselves in the process. The key for caregivers is examining the environment, identifying potential hazards, and finding the correct solutions.

Avoiding Slips and Falls

WINTER GUIDE FOR CAREGIVERSMany who require assistance with mobility are at a greater risk of slipping or falling and experiencing an injury. These injuries can include sprains or even broken bones. With daylight diminishing during the short days of winter, it is much easier to not see any icy or slippery areas that can be treacherous. Caregivers should take great care examining outside walkways for any potential pratfall. To aid with walking, the use of a gait belt can help steady someone who may have balance or stability issues while keeping the caregiver safe from overextension and potential injury. If the person you are responsible for uses a cane or walker, make sure that any walking aid is in proper working condition and if possible when dealing with ice, make sure the contact points are secure. Navigating the unstable terrain of winter can be overcome through the use of a quad cane or adapting your current cane with a steel ice attachment to keep a steady gait.   Since winter has longer dark hours, the use of an attachable light can be extremely useful. A flashlight for mobility devices is specifically designed to attach either a cane or walker.  This can illuminate any icy patches to be avoided. And remember, slow and steady wins the race.

 

Winter Skin Care

WINTER GUIDE FOR CAREGIVERS While everyone can identify with the irritation of dry skin during the cold, low humidity days of winter, those affected by diabetes can be impacted more. Roughly 1/3 of diabetics suffer from skin problems related to their diabetes. Those with high glucose levels tend to suffer from dry skin which can negatively affect their ability to ward off harmful bacteria. This can lead to infection and serious complications down the road. Diabetics must ensure that their skin is properly hydrated to avoid any complications. Diabetic skin lotion is specifically designed to make sure to avoid this pratfall. Caregivers who are responsible for showering or bathing should take care to avoid hot water to minimize skin drying and use moisturizing soap can help keep skin moisturized and avoid any cracking of dry skin. Since feet can be a constant issue for diabetics, close inspection is crucial to avoiding any skin issues. The use of a diabetic inspection mirror can be used by the sufferer or their caregiver to easily nip any problem in the bud!! With the cold, dry winds of winter one area we should make sure to look after is our lips. With the lack of moisture in the air, our lips can become dry and cracked. To avoid this potential skin problem, caregivers should always be sure to use lip balm to keep delicate skin around our mouth free from any painful cracking.

While winter can be beautiful, it can also be dangerous. Cold, dry air wreaks havoc on our skin and makes walking outside potentially hazardous. A winter wonderland may look pretty, but that beauty hides some treacherous terrain!! Caregivers must be especially diligent to make sure those who they

care for are properly prepared and safe. These same caregivers must also take precautions that in doing their appointed duty they do not harm or injure themselves. Stay safe!!

WINTER GUIDE FOR CAREGIVERS

 

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HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Hi there, my name is Kevin Cleary. I was born in Westchester County in 1966 on December 3. I lived there until 1973 when my family moved. I graduated from high school in 1984 and then attended college in New ...

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