5 Wintertime or Severe Weather Threats for Seniors and How to Manage Them

Oh, the weather outside is frightful… When it is snowing and cold outside, older adults have many obvious concerns that are not present at other times of year; here is a list of the top five and how you can help minimize the threat of each for your elderly loved ones or neighbors.

1. Heating Costs. We’re all familiar with what happens to our electrical or heating oil bills in the winter. We hear the heater kick on and imagine a cash register dinging as we envision the dollar signs racking up.  Elderly persons living on a fixed income with an already tight budget may have extra difficulty coping with this increased expense. They may keep their home at an unsafe temperature in an attempt to minimize the cost, or they may be entirely unable to heat their homes if their utilities are shut off due to past due balances. You can help seniors avoid this by putting them in touch with local resources such as programs provided by the utility company or local charities. You can also help by doing a “welfare check” and visiting neighbors you know who may be at risk of these issues to make sure they have heat or warm clothes and blankets. You could even offer to open your home to neighbors whose homes might become temporarily uninhabitable due to the cold.

2. Fall Risks. Even the most young and nimble of us can slip and fall on slick ice in the winter. Seniors who may already be unsteady on their feet and more prone to tripping are at an even greater risk of falling this time of year. Of course, falls can also have much greater consequences for elderly persons who may have more brittle bones and are therefore more likely to be seriously injured – broken wrists or hips – than younger healthier persons. You can help older people avoid falls by shoveling their driveways and walks for them and laying down salt, ice melt, or kitty litter to reduce ice and provide better traction. You can also encourage them to use a walker or other assistive device, even if they might not otherwise do so at other times of the year.

3. Limited Mobility/Socialization. Due to the fear of falling or driving in inclement weather, many of us simply choose not to go outside when the weather is nasty. This can be especially true for seniors, and may leave them isolated at home for extended periods. You can help by stopping by for a visit, perhaps even with a group of people. You could also offer to assist them in getting out by driving them to events at your local senior center or nearest Juniper Village. Even just calling elderly persons to talk can make them feel less alone and more connected to the outside world.

4. Diminished Nutrient Intake. Meals are a very social activity, so seniors who feel lonely or isolated may not be eating enough which may make them weaker and can compound other dangers. Elderly persons also may struggle to eat well in the winter due to issues with utilities and the associated expenses. You can help by bringing them meals or offering to cook for them. You could also take them to meals at your local senior center or nearest Juniper Village or put them in touch with local resources that provide meals or assistance to help defray the cost of food.

5. Dehydration. You might think dehydration would be less of an issue during the winter, but, in fact, the opposite may be true. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air and can actually sap water from the body. Did you know that by the time someone feels thirsty their body is already dehydrated? It’s true, especially for older adults, because their sense of thirst diminishes as they age. Therefore, it is important to look for other signs of dehydration. Skin that is chapped, red or inflamed can signal excessive cold or wind exposure, but may also be due to water loss. Most experts recommend 8 to 12 cups – standard 8 ounce measuring cups – of fluid every day. Help seniors achieve this by encouraging them to keep a glass or bottle of water nearby and drink small amounts throughout the day. Not only will this help them drink enough, but water is better absorbed that way. If they are not a big fan of plain water, mix it up a little. Provide water with lemon or lime juice, seltzer or sparkling water, herbal tea, or decaffeinated coffee. Broth, milk, and juice also count toward their fluid intake. Just avoid caffeinated beverages; caffeine is a diuretic and may cause the body to excrete more fluid than they drank with it.

Finally, if the weather forecaster is predicting blizzard conditions, heed their warnings and follow all restrictions related to travel and safety. When the weather outside is TRULY frightful, stay inside, wrap up in a comfy blanket, keep an eye on the weather channel and Juniper Communities’ blogs/resources, sip some hot beverage and stay safe!

Juniper Communities: Our Clinical Outcomes Speak for Themselves

by Cindy Longfellow

At Juniper Communities, we recognize that our healthcare partners are looking for objective outcomes data to support discharges to any given facility or level of care.  Hospital program coordinators, discharge planners, as well as other health care providers are analyzing key data information points to determine which provider they will partner with to achieve optimum patient outcomes.

Historically, personal care or assisted living communities, have not been seen as part of the clinical solution, but that is changing.  Personal care or assisted living provides a healthy lifestyle environment that helps prevent and manage chronic conditions. It is often a much safer discharge than a discharge to home, which is the hospital discharge most likely to result in a readmission.

These quality care outcomes are also important to our current and prospective families.  They speak to our commitment to individualized, quality care and service that goes beyond simple assistance with activities of daily life to a more global approach to health and wellness.

Juniper Communities pioneers programs to manage readmissions and other quality care challenges:

  • Early adopter of care transitions model, which includes multiple components of quality care, service, and outcomes
  • Innovator in data collection via our community scorecard, key indicators, and quality benchmarking
    • Began collecting quality outcomes data nearly 10 years ago
    • Five years of trended outcome data, including over 50 data points such as falls with/without injury, medication errors, infection rates, % weight loss/gain, etc.
    • Over 3 years of trended data on hospitalizations and re-hospitalizations
    • Open and transparent in sharing our critical data points with all stakeholders
  • Implementer of Electronic Health Records (EHR) well in advance of deadline for skilled nursing communities and prior to mandate for assisted living or personal care
    • EHR system allows for better coordinated care management/transitions
    • Facilitates timely and uniform collection of data/access to critical outcomes
  • Rolled out INTERACT (Interventions to Reduce Acute Care Transfers), a nationally recognized initiative,  to all communities by mid-2014

Key outcomes set Juniper Communities apart:

  • Hospital readmission rates well below national benchmarks at all our communities
  • Critical outcomes such as medication errors, falls with injury, etc. also below national benchmarks at all our communities
  • Advance Standing certification at our two New Jersey communities, speaks to long history of excellent survey results and positive outcomes
  • Five of our six Wellspring communities have achieved the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Excellence in Care Alzheimer’s Program of Distinction certification (Aurora, Louisville, Naples, Williamstown, and State College); our sixth community is working towards certification by mid-2015
  • Over a decade of high customer satisfaction scores; since 2013 our customer satisfaction survey process has been managed by a national company which provides benchmarking, scores at all of our communities have consistently been above the national average
  • Early adoption of innovative care programs including purpose built memory care design, INTERACT, Music & Memory and many others

Find the community nearest you to see its specific outcomes data.

Juniper Communities presents film screenings of Alive Inside, unveils Music and Memory program

by Jeanine Genauer

Learn the 10 reasons music is essential in the lives of elders and those suffering with memory loss

This month, Juniper Communities unveils in its Juniper Village Wellspring memory care communities programming that targets the use of music in aiding residents suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

“Juniper is investing heavily in this initiative that we believe will make a positive impact in our residents’ and other elders’ lives,” explains Lynne Katzmann, CEO and Founder of Juniper. “We are sponsoring the screening of the documentary Alive Inside, an uplifting cinematic exploration of music and the mind in people suffering from dementia; implementing the Music & Memory program for which all of our Wellspring communities have received certification; and creating personalized playlists, collecting donations of iPods and MP3 Players to be given away to the elderly, and hosting lectures on the benefits of music for the elderly. All these events are open to the public.”

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Video Message from Lynne Katzmann, CEO and Founder

Lynne Katzmann, CEO and Founder of Juniper Communities, discusses her unique brand of leadership and what sets her company apart from others in the Senior Living and Elder Care field; pioneering programs, visionary people, and exceptional qualitative outcomes.