cozy sweater, scarf, hat, and mug to keep warm during the winter

BRRRRR! Is it cold enough for you? When the temperature plummets and icy winds blow, caregivers must remember to not only bundle themselves, but also bundle their loved ones. Mind you, doing so may seem unnecessary or time-consuming, however, seniors (with thinner skin and older joints) can be more prone to the cold, so precautions must be taken – even on shorter trips. Exposed skin can freeze within seconds.

To make outside trips more comfortable and safer, here are a few tips for caregivers:

Dress in layers

A long-sleeved shirt, sweater, and coat worn together are often warmer than just a single layer. In addition, extra layers have the advantage of being able to be removed, if the need arises (i.e. if things warm up outside or you are inside for a period of time). With wearing the extra bulk, your parent may well resemble the Michelin Man, but on the coldest days, it makes far more sense to be warm rather than be fashionable! Don’t forget the long underwear.

Although you may well prefer not doing so, watch or assist your parent with putting on long-
johns. I recall sending Dad into his bedroom a few times to get dressed and then checking when he came out – with his advancing Alzheimer’s disease, I had to confirm that he had remembered to actually pull on his long underwear!

Wear Button / Zip-up Sweaters

Both styles are far easier to manage than “pullovers”. Sweater buttons on cardigans and/or zippers should also be large enough for older fingers to clasp. You may also be able to find a sweater with a Velcro closure.

Select Mittens versus Gloves

Mittens, where an entire hand can be inserted without separating the fingers, are often warmer than gloves. If it is very frosty outside, have your parent wear a lighter pair of gloves underneath a pair of mittens. Remember those long strings which attached mittens together and could be worn underneath a jacket and draped around a child’s neck? These may not be a bad idea for seniors as well, so mittens will not go missing.

Top Things Off with a Warm Hat

It’s a proven fact that the majority of body heat escapes through the scalp, so cover the “roof”! A wool hat will provide optimum warmth; however, ensure that your loved one is not allergic to this material.

Remember Boots with Good Treads

Older parents aren’t nearly as nimble on their feet as they once were and balance can become an issue. An unnoticed ice patch can easily spell disaster for a senior who could slip and fall. Ensure that your parent’s footwear (both shoes and boots) will grip on ice and snow. Another recommendation is to find boots with removable insoles.

After a day of tramping through snow, boots can get mighty wet and removable insoles can be better dried. If you cannot locate a pair of boots to your liking, visit a local running or hardware store to shop for rubberized attachable footwear grips. These stretch to fit different sizes of shoes and/or boots and feature small nails or pegs which will better dig in in slippery conditions.

Choose an Appropriate Jacket

My sisters and I found Dad a longer parka which extended past his waist. We also chose a slightly larger size than was necessary to allow for a few extra layers underneath. When Dad wore the coat, he was quite cozy; however, we quickly found that the jacket’s double zipper often caught in the fabric – believe me, the last thing you want to be doing is having your jacket remain open and be fumbling with a coat zipper in the cold! We took this coat to a tailor to replace the double zipper with a single zipper instead and did not experience any further problems.

Utilize a Heating Pad

I’m thinking here of one of those seed-filled sacks you can toss in the microwave oven for a couple of minutes before heading outside – wrap this around Mom or Dad’s neck to help keep him/her toasty warm!

Pack along a Car Blanket

You can either place it on your vehicle’s passenger’s seat for your loved one to sit on or store it for use, when needed.


 

Want to hear more from Rick? Check out his book, The Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians.

Written by Rick Lauber
Rick Lauber is a former co-caregiver, established freelance writer and author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians (Self-Counsel Press). Rick’s book is available for purchase at national Chapter’s bookstores and online.

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