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The NSPA Blog

Winter Storms: Risks and Reminders for Seniors

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Posted on November 27th, 2018 by Teri Dreher, under Patient Advocacy

Chicago was hit with quite the snow storm this week

What better time to remind our readers (and ourselves) of some of the risks for seniors associated with heavy snows? Further, what better time to remind ourselves what it means to be a good neighbor? Tis the season, after all. Here’s a list of our top winter risks and reminders.

The risks

  • Heart related complications
    • Studies show that 2-3 days after a major snow storm hospitals see a spike in admissions due to heart related issues. One study even found that heart attack, chest pain, and stroke increased by 23% in days following major snow storms in the US. Reasons for the couple day delay aren’t precisely clear, but researchers think it has to do with shoveling after a storm or simply not being able to get to the hospital until storms subdue. Heart attacks were particularly increased in men.
  • Falls
    • This is one that many of us are already aware of because, well, it gets slippery out there! So it’s not that seniors are necessarily at higher risk of falling, it’s that falling poses a higher risk for the health of seniors. Bone density loses strength as we age, and we’re a lot more fragile. The same study mentioned earlier shows falls increase by almost 20% on average during a storm.
  • Seasonal depression and loneliness
    • We’ve covered this topic before, but it’s worth revisiting. According to American Family Physician, 4-6% of the population report feeling more lonely in the winter. Up to 20% of the population are at risk of developing mild to moderate Seasonal Affective Disorder. Since seniors are at an already heightened risk of experiencing loneliness, it’s important to look out for more serious symptoms in the winter months.

The reminders

Given what we know about the risks of winter storms, it’s incredibly important to remember to stay vigilant this holiday season. We suggest starting with a phone call. Calling to check in is a great way to both ensure that someone is okay and to build up that relationship. Next, consider other ways to help. If shoveling snow for your elderly neighbor isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are plenty of high school and college-aged kids who like to shovel snow for some extra money. Some people even do it professionally. The point is to look out for each other. Just like the Beatles said, we get by with a little help from our friends.

 

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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