How to Help Those With SMI During The Cold Winter Months

The winter season can pose unique challenges for individuals with SMI when it comes to conveying their physical symptoms accurately. As a result, they become more vulnerable to severe medical complications caused by common cold and flu viruses. It’s crucial to recognize that these seemingly harmless viruses can have serious consequences if symptoms are overlooked or not effectively communicated.

This is particularly true for those with SMI, who face a higher risk of experiencing grave and potentially life-threatening complications. Whether you’re a caregiver or not, there are a few essential steps we can all take to support the health and well-being of individuals with SMI during these winter months:

  • Provide extra personal contact: If you are a caregiver, plan to spend more regular time with your loved one during this season. That extra time together allows you to be proactive about noticing symptoms and ensuring they get to the doctor when necessary. Make sure to listen for coughing, congestion, or wheezing, and pay special attention when these symptoms don’t seem to be getting better.
  • Help organize the closet change-over: Offer to help your loved one organize their closet at the beginning of the season, so that you can directly ensure they have cold-weather clothes. Take inventory of what they have and make a list of things they might need (heavy coat, hat, gloves, scarves, etc).
  • If you see something, say something: Even if you don’t know anyone personally with SMI, that doesn’t mean you won’t come into contact with them. If you see a person who does not have adequate shelter or clothing during these cold months, call 911 and ask for a wellness check. There are crisis teams who specialize in supporting people with SMI.
  • Donate to local organizations: Here in the DC area, we have organizations specifically focused on working with those who have SMI. Bethesda Cares is one of those organizations doing incredible work in our community, and we encourage any support you can give to them.

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