It’s easy, but maybe not all that kind or sensitive, to poke fun at seniors always being chilly, but the joke is definitely more amusing in the summertime when the rest of us are warm.
In the winter, however, all the residents of Maquoketa and elsewhere are all cold, regardless of age. But lower temperatures can be especially dangerous for seniors, including those receiving end-of-life care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Care and Hospice are always happy to encourage our clients and their loved ones to make sure they’re properly bundled up and ready for cold weather if they do venture outside. We also want to make sure they have adequate heating sources in their homes, plus additional protection from the cold if needed, such as blankets, quilts, heating pads, and even warm footwear.
The reason for this is simple: as we age, our body changes, including our skin.
Many seniors have thinner skin and less fat directly under it, which means less natural insulation. This makes them get colder faster and also makes them more sensitive to cooler temperatures. They may have a higher risk of frostbite and hypothermia and can start to feel the effects of both rapidly, sometimes before they can even notice them.
Some medical conditions can further aggravate internal temperature, such as neuropathy which may make toes and fingers cold. Eczema, which can include reddish patches on the skin, can also be triggered by a blend of cold weather followed by heat.
A significant concern of people going outside is a fear of falling. This is a legitimate worry any time of the year, but winter presents significantly more health hazards, such as slippery surfaces combined with poor mobility.
People may even feel off balance due to their winter wardrobes. They’re wearing clothes that are bigger and bulkier than they’re used to. They may be wearing footwear that also isn’t comfortable such as big boots.
The fear of falling is certainly a concern, but the risk to the skin is also considered. Cold temperatures, especially when combined with wind, can dry out the skin. It can cause itching or flaking, and even if frostbite doesn’t occur, it can still cause damage if someone is out in it too long.
For seniors wondering about how to take care of their skin in cold climates consider some of these strategies.
- Avoid dry skin by using lotions, creams, even lip balm. This can help keep you moisturized and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. If you aren’t sure which type of lotion to use, check with a dermatologist. Different lotions have different ingredients, including lanolin or fragrance. Generally, experts suggest limiting the use of hot water and plain soap and using a non-detergent-based cleaner, followed by a cream-based lotion that’s thick and then a petroleum-based jelly.
- Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day is always a good idea, whether you’re indoors or outdoors. Health experts generally suggest at least eight glasses of either water or water-based liquids, which can also consist of tea, coffee, or juices. But if you spend time outside, it’s a good idea to have more. This can replenish any moisture that may be lost, either from wind or from exercise.
- Look for reasons to stay indoors. These days, there are more and more options for people who don’t want to go out. True, much of this has been due to COVID precautions, but these practices intended to reduce infection risk also can work well for people who don’t want to go outside or stay outside longer in the cold. There are more options for food and package delivery, for instance. You can even invest in a humidifier to put more moisture in the air of your home or at least your room.
- Make your trips fast. Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house, but you also can look for ways to minimize how long you’re outside. This can include planning the route for your errands or figuring out the best way to get many of the items on your shopping list at the same place. Even though larger stores and supermarkets may be crowded, you’re likely able to find more of what you need rather than visiting multiple smaller stores.
It’s important to do everything you can to preserve and maintain your skin throughout your life. This includes using protection such as sunscreen or covering up in the warmer months and covering up and moisturizing in the cooler months as well.
Learning some of these habits when you’re younger can help your condition in the future, but there are also some steps seniors can take.
To learn more about winter skincare, visit the website at National Healthy Skin Month. November has been designated as National Healthy Skin Month. The month-long awareness campaign is sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology, and designed to provide people of all ages with good resources for year-round skincare.