Winter Care Tips for Seniors

The winter season presents specific risks and challenges that can be exaggerated for older adults. We value the safety of our patients while they are with us and certainly once they go home. Because of this we believe that it’s important to be prepared for the risks that winter weather can bring. Here are seven safety tips to help mitigate those risks.
  1. Keep warm. Older adults are at a greater risk of developing hypothermia — a dangerous drop in body temperature — during cold weather. Aging lowers one’s ability to withstand longer periods of cold, even from just sitting in a colder than normal room. Certain conditions and medications can also affect a person’s ability to sense cold, making them especially vulnerable. Because of this, older people should keep indoor temps above 65 degrees and look for the warning signs of hypothermia – shivering, cold and pale or ashy skin, abnormal fatigue, sudden confusion, and/or slowed breathing and heart rate. If you notice these symptoms call 911 immediately.
  2. Avoid falls. While falls are a constant concern regardless of weather, seniors need to be especially vigilant in avoiding falls during the winter. Ice, snow, and mobility impeded by cold temperatures can wreak havoc on a normally safe environment. Given the particularly dangerous nature of falls in older adults, it is crucial for individuals and their loved ones to keep steps and walks clear of snow, ice, and other potential fall hazards. Be especially cautious when using canes, walkers, crutches, etc. on snow and ice.
  3. Watch for wintertime depression. It’s not uncommon for older adults to alter their social engagements during the winter months because of the cold and inclement weather. While this seems like a good idea in terms of limiting exposure to winter illnesses and avoiding fall risks, it can actually have a negative impact on one’s mental and emotional well-being. Staying active and finding alternative social outlets is a big factor in avoiding wintertime depression. If you have older family members who are at risk of becoming isolated, make an effort to visit, call, or arrange activities to keep their spirits high.
  4. Eat a varied diet. When it’s cold outside we’re less likely to get the sun exposure that we need for our bodies to produce Vitamin D, and we tend to eat a less varied diet. Eating foods with Vitamin D, like milk, grains, and certain seafood can help with this deficit. You might even talk with your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.
  5. Prepare for emergencies. Winter storms can cause a variety of problems including long-lasting power outages and snowed- or iced-in conditions. It is essential to be prepared for such events before they occur. The CDC website has a wealth of information on preparing for extreme cold conditions. They have created a printable document – Extreme Cold Guide – that includes information for what to do before, during, and after a winter storm. Tips include storm preparation, safety checklists, and health information. This guide is a valuable clearinghouse for anyone preparing for winter weather. [1]
  6. Drive safely. While safe driving practices are always paramount, hazards can be exaggerated during inclement weather. It is important to know one’s limits when it comes to operating a vehicle. If you don’t feel comfortable driving in ice and snow, ask a friend or family member for a ride. Another concern on the road is emergency preparedness. Make sure you have supplies in your car to keep you safe in case of a stranding or accident. Warm blankets and clothes, food, a flashlight, and an ice scraper should be standard equipment in the car. Always travel with a cell phone and charger in case you have an emergency. Another way to avoid problems is to have your car winterized by a trusted professional.
  7. Maintain safe heating. It is vitally important to keep heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, etc. in good working order and free of clutter to avoid fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Beyond having these devices checked by a professional, you should have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure the detectors are properly installed on every floor and are in good working condition. Each bedroom and sleeping area should have its own smoke detector. [2]
By following these basic safety tips you and your loved ones can reduce the risk of serious problems this winter. Stay warm and be safe!
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Stroke and Parkinson’s Support Groups

New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital hosts a Stroke Support Group and a Parkinson’s Support Group each month for both patients and their loved ones.

Stroke Support Group
New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital hosts a Stroke Support Group on the third Thursday of each month, at 5:00 p.m. This group provides problem solving, community outreach, educational programs, recreational activities, rehabilitation, and self-help for stroke patients and their loved ones. Please call (830) 625-6700 if you have any questions.


Parkinson’s Support Group
The Comal County Parkinson’s Support Group meets on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month from 9:30-11:00 a.m. in the cafeteria at New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. Please call (830) 625-6700 if you have any questions.

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New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital Spreads Christmas Cheer to Community

In December, the staff of New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital participated in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. This program provides Christmas gifts for children of families in need through the support of donors like New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. This year, New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital provided gifts to 40 children in our community.


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New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital Earns Advanced Stroke Certification

Award signifies hospital’s dedication to better results for stroke patients.

New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital recently received The Joint Commission’s disease-specific certification for stroke rehabilitation, which signifies the hospital’s dedication to developing better results for stroke patients. The award was given after a rigorous on-site review by an expert evaluator.

“This award recognizes how committed we are and how well we provide rehabilitation following a stroke,” says Jennifer Malatek, Chief Executive Officer at New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. “We want to provide hope and quality of life to our community members who have experienced this debilitating event. For many, it’s their only chance at returning back to families, friends and daily routines.”

Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.

Certification through the Joint Commission’s Disease-Specific Care Program is voluntary and available only to stroke programs in Join Commission-accredited acute care hospitals. Certification requirements address three core areas:

  • Compliance with consensus-based national standards.
  • Effective use of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines to manage and optimize care.
  • Organized approach to performance measurement and improvement activities.

“Stroke continues to be highly prevalent in our community and often is a life changing event for the stroke survivor and his or her family,” Malatek says. “We feel it’s our obligation and privilege to continue to improve services to stroke survivors in New Braunfels and its surrounding areas.”

New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital provides specialized inpatient and outpatient physical rehabilitative services to more than 1,800 patients a year. The hospital treats patients who are recovering from disabilities caused by injuries or illnesses, such as strokes, orthopedic, brain and spinal cord injuries. The hospital also treats individuals with chronic illnesses such as cerebral palsy, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease.

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National Rehab Awareness Week

The week salutes the determination of patients, applauds the efforts of rehabilitation professionals and provides education and awareness about rehabilitation services.

“Rehabilitation is an integral part of the healthcare process that helps patients to improve their quality of life and reduce subsequent illnesses or problems,” said Jennifer Malatek, CEO of New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. “The goal of rehabilitation is to help a person attain the highest level of functioning possible — physically and cognitively. “For some, this may mean learning to walk again or how to maneuver a wheelchair. For others, it may mean learning how to communicate with loved ones.” Patients who receive rehabilitative services often experience positive results in regaining or improving productivity and independence.

A recent national study shows that patients treated in inpatient rehabilitation facilities have better long-term results than those treated in other facilities. The study, which was commissioned by the ARA Research Institute, shows that patients treated in rehabilitation hospitals live longer, have less hospital and ER visits and remain longer in their homes without additional outpatient services. Statistics also show rehabilitation can save money. For example, for every $1 spent on rehabilitative care, it’s estimated $11 are saved on long-term disability costs.

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Raising Awareness of Stroke

Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. It is the fifth-leading cause of death in the country, the leading cause of disability and one out of six people will suffer a stroke in his or her lifetime. Despite these numbers, many Americans do not think of stroke as a major health concern — and, according to the American Stroke Association, one in three Americans is unable to identify the stroke warning signs — known as F.A.S.T.

The acronym stands for:
F — Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop down?
A — Arm weakness: Ask the person to lift their arms. Does one drift downward?
S — Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
T—Time to call 911: If the person has any of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately. The person could be having a stroke.

Stroke can happen to anyone at any time re- gardless of race, sex or age,” said Dr. Maria Lomba, medical director of New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.Yet, despite the tremendous toll stroke takes, the vast majority of Americans don’t think of stroke as a major health concern.

Lomba and New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, along with countless other hospitals, medical institutions and health professionals in Texas and around the country, are asking community members to become “Stroke Heroes” by learning the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs so they can recognize a stroke and act quickly.

Each May, the ASA and the American Heart Association recognize American Stroke Month by rallying the nation around the cause.

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Recognized in the Top 10% of Inpatient Rehabilitation

New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital ranked in the top 10 percent of inpatient rehabilitation facilities in the United States for the 3rd year in a row!

The ranking is by the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation (UDSMR), a not-for-profit corporation that was developed with support from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation research, a component of the U.S. Department of Education.

The UDSMR ranks rehabilitation facilities based upon care that is:

  1. Patient-Centered
  2. Effective
  3. Efficient
  4. Timely

This means that through services at New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, our patients are receiving the highest level of rehabilitative care available nationally without having to leave the area!


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