Michele's Blog

Caregiving During Winter Months

By Michele Scott

The weather is definitely offering some challenges when you are scheduling events, keeping appointments and deciding how to dress. One day it is freezing and the next day in the 50s and 60s. How do you as a Caregiver prepare your patient for the day? Especially if they are being picked up by a third party for a trip to the doctor or a prescheduled outing. Even the home-bound might be cold in the morning and warm or hot later in the day. Yes, there are apps for adjusting home temperatures while you are away, however everyone isn’t an “app” person.

Evenings, late night and early mornings can be cold. Especially for frail or weak patients. Piling on blankets is a recent trend advocated by many doctors, nurses and occupational therapists. They believe weighted blankets provide deep pressure stimulation which can stimulate a release of endorphins in the brain affecting the mood and anxiety of the patient.  However heavy or weighted blankets and tucked blankets can push down on the patient’s foot, extending the foot and shortening the muscles of the calve causing leg cramps.  If your patient suffers from nocturnal leg cramps or sleep hyperhidrosis (night sweats) check with their doctor before applying heavy, weighted or tightly tucked blankets. With the introduction of new fabrics and materials, light weight bedding can provide as much warmth as blankets or comforters. Although electric blankets can keep you warm, they might not be a good idea for your patient. If your patient has been diagnosed with neuropathy or any degree of nerve damage they may not be able to tell if the blanket or heating pat is to hot – causing burns.

Although Google and Alexa can adjust pre-scheduled temperatures many homes don’t have the luxury of Bluetooth thermostats. Cooling the patient down as the temperature rises can be easily done with a little pre-planning. If your patient has movement in their hands and arms, loosely fitted bedding can be tossed off or thrown to the floor. If they have movement of their legs and feet, they can move from under the covers if they are over heated or uncomfortable. If they cannot adjust bedding themselves, less is more during warm or hot weather days. Check the weather daily and throughout the day. If your patient is home alone, provide a means of communication with you. A couple of hours of discomfort might not cause a problem, however anything beyond that can affect a patient physically and mentally.

Other suggestions include light clothing, easily removed shawls or scarfs. A sweater thrown around a shoulder, a breathable light weight shirt or a jacket. Thanks to technology there are fabrics which both warm and cool as the indoor / outdoor temperature changes. They are expensive, yet reviews are good. And let’s not forget food and beverages which affect body temperature. Foods that contain fat, protein and carbs can heat the body, whereas foods high in water content can cool the body down. Beverages containing caffeine warm the body and cold water cools the body.

Although this article is about temperature and environment, it is important to mention winter depression. SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder – symptoms of which include fatigue, changing sleep habits, anxiousness, feelings of stress, irritability and a lack of appetite. Other symptoms include difficulty concentrating and a loss of interest in communicating or performing certain activities and tasks.

As Caregivers it is important to keep your patient as comfortable and protected as possible and remember Home Helpers Home Care is available seven day a week, 24/7 to provide guidance and support.