Nobody loves the damp, chilly air and frigid winds of winter – but for seniors, cold weather can aggravate aches and pains already difficult to live with. While physicians and other medical professionals are always the best resources for pain management, there are a few simple ways you can help your loved one avoid discomfort and live with less pain during this achy season.
Keep elders warm and layered up
It seems obvious, but it’s so important that it’s worth repeating: The best way to avoid cold weather aches and pains is to stay warm! Keep your loved one’s home at a warm, comfortable temperature – and remember that older bodies generate less heat. Your elder may be perfectly comfortable living in temperatures that seem far too hot for you.
Encourage older family members to dress warmly and in layers, whether they’re staying indoors or heading outside. Extra layers provide more insulation and preserve body heat much better than just one large jacket or sweater. Make sure your loved one has a thick robe and slippers for those chilly early mornings, too. Warm muscles and joints stay more flexible, which make for a more comfortable, pain-free day.
Encourage seniors to enjoy the benefits of water
If your loved ones have access to a heated swimming pool, help them make regular use of it. Exercise is a great way to keep older muscles and joints limber, and swimming is a wonderfully soothing and low-impact form of exercise. Just make sure your loved one stays warm from start to finish!
Even if swimming is out of the question, warm baths are still a great option for easing aches and pains. For extra relaxation and pain relief, try adding a cup of sea salt and a cup of baking soda to the bath water. Test the water to make sure it’s a comfortable temperature, and encourage your elder to soak for about 20 minutes.
Help them stay hydrated
Water has another benefit for everyone, but especially for seniors. That benefit is as a lubricant for achy muscles and joints – in other words, staying hydrated helps elders stay pain-free. It’s particularly important to ensure your loved one is drinking plenty of water during the cold winter months, as heating systems can be extremely drying.
Because seniors are often less sensitive to thirst than their younger family members, they become dehydrated more easily. And dehydration can be a real danger to older folks. It can cause them to feel lethargic and dizzy and make them more susceptible to muscle cramps and joint pain. So make sure your elders are drinking plenty of water all through the winter.
Consider adding a few supplements
Finally, consult your family physician about the possibility of adding two helpful supplements to your loved one’s daily regimen: Vitamin D and high Omega-3 fish oil. For seniors who tend stay indoors during the cold months, Vitamin D deficiency can be a real problem. Low levels of Vitamin D have been proven to increase the fragility of bones – already a danger for seniors – and some studies show a correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and sensitivity to arthritis pain.
Seniors who suffer from arthritis may also want to consider following the recommendation of the Arthritis Foundation, and start taking fish oil capsules every day. The Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can reduce the inflammation that causes arthritis joint pain.
Winter’s chilly temperatures and damp air can definitely worsen chronic aches and pains, especially for senors. But your loved one doesn’t have to be resigned to living a more painful life as the temperatures drop. With some extra care and these simple tips, your elder can enjoy the winter months and look forward to a healthy spring.