Winter months bring ice, snow and frigid temperatures which can make commutes, walks and life in general challenging for everyone. Slippery sidewalks and cold weather is the culprit for many injuries and illnesses, especially for seniors. Here are some helpful tips for preventing common winter dangers that the elderly may face.
1) Avoid Slipping on Ice
Icy and snowy sidewalks and roads make it difficult to walk and may cause slips and falls. Often these falls for senior citizens cause major injuries such as hip and wrist fractures, head trauma and major lacerations. Older adults face complications which are a leading cause of death from injuries in adults over the age of 65. Make sure to wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles. Try to stay inside until the roads and sidewalks become clearer. Regularly replace worn cane tips to make walking easier. Take off shoes as soon as you come back inside because often snow and ice attach to the soles and, once melted, can lead to slippery conditions within the home.
2) Dress Warm
Cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia, a condition where the body temperature dips too low. More than half of hypothermia-related deaths are people over the age of 65, according to the Center for Disease Control. Don’t let indoor temperatures go too low and dress in layers. Wear warm socks, a heavy coat, a warm hat, gloves and a scarf when going outside. Cover all exposed skin and use a scarf to cover your mouth and protect your lungs.
3) Fight Wintertime Depression
Because it can be difficult and dangerous to get around, many seniors have less contact with others during colder months. This can breed feelings of loneliness and isolation. To help avoid this, family members should check in on seniors as often as possible, even if it is just a short phone call. It can make a huge difference. Seniors can arrange a check-in system with neighbors and friends, where each person looks in on a couple of others daily.
4) Check the Car
Driving during the winter is hazardous for everyone, but it is especially dangerous for the elderly because they may not drive as often anymore or have as quick reflexes as they used to. Get your car serviced before wintertime comes around or ask a family member to bring it to a garage for you. Checking things like the oil, tires, battery and wipers can make a big difference. Keep your AAA membership or other roadside assistance programs up-to-date in case of emergencies.
5) Prepare for Power Outages
Winter storms can cause power outages. Make sure you have easy access to flashlights and a battery-powered radio just in case. Stockpile blankets. Longer power outages can spoil food in the refrigerator and freezer, so keep a supply of non-perishable foods that can be eaten cold or room temperature. Wear several layers of clothing and move around a lot to raise your body temperature.
6) Eat a Varied Diet
In the winter, people spend more time indoors and may eat smaller varieties of foods. Nutritional deficits, especially Vitamin D, can be a problem. Dietitians recommends consuming foods that are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, grains, and seafood like tuna and salmon.
7) Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
When using a fireplace, gas heater or lantern, it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Check the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector and buy an updated one if needed.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need to clear your property of snow and ice, call on a neighbor, family member or professional. Arrange rides to the grocery store and doctors’ appointments. Find caregivers to assist you or your senior on a regular basis and keep them safe all year around. Wintertime can be a challenge for seniors, but with proper preparations and awareness, you will stay healthy and experience the joys of springtime soon enough.
Reprinted by permission–Oasis Senior Advisors