Although we encourage our patients to drink in the summer in order to avoid dehydration, the danger is actually greater in the winter. Electric heating can be extremely drying and the natural instinct to drink can be weaker. Dehydration can cause weakness and dizziness, which may lead to falls and fractures. In addition to providing drinks regularly, it’s crucial that residents know that they will be taken to the bathroom in a timely manner, otherwise they may refrain from drinking sufficient amounts.
Are you stir-crazy from too much time indoors? Imagine how nursing facility residents must feel. How about organizing a winter picnic in your activity room? All you need is some checkered blankets or tablecloths, holiday decorations and vases of flowers. Serve winter comfort foods like soup and grilled cheese. Play games like building snowmen out of fake snow and tossing a ring over toy snowmen.
Depression is more common in the winter than it is in the summer. Having people to talk to can make a huge difference in a senior’s mood. It’s always important to communicate with your patients while you care for them, but during winter months you should make a special effort to keep up a cheerful banter and give them the chance to let you know how they are feeling.
In the winter, seniors don’t feel temperature changes as quickly, and the cold can lead to increased fall risks, slower metabolisms, stiffness, increased arthritic pain and breathing difficulty. It’s important to make sure all patients are warm enough. You may need to provide extra clothing and blankets to those who are more sensitive to the chill. If you see that many patients are suffering from heat loss, speak to management about turning up the heat.
Caring for Yourself
Last not but not least, be sure to care for yourself during the winter months so you have energy to spare for your patients. Be as active as possible, take advantage of indoor time to enjoy family or a good book and remember to eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of fluids.