As winter approaches, slippery ice, mounds of snow, and freezing temperatures, can make life difficult for everyone, especially seniors.
Here are 5 winter safety and preparation tips that can help you or a loved one get ready for the snow.
1. Hypothermia Protection
As people grow older, it becomes harder to regulate body temperature. Seniors can accidentally put themselves in danger because they may not realize how cold they actually are.
When going outside cover as much exposed skin as possible. A heavy coat, thick socks, a hat, gloves, and a scarf are all necessities when venturing outside during the cold winter months.
While inside, wear warm clothing and make sure the thermostat is at a safe level. Caregivers are trained to monitor seniors for signs of hypothermia and can provide hot meals and make up the bed with extra blankets.
2. Keep the house warm
Have all chimneys, flues, and furnaces inspected before the winter sets in. Batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be changed annually as well.
Never set the thermostat below 65 degrees, even when sleeping. Programmable thermostats can help save on energy bills and remember to change the temperatures so you don’t have to.
Closing doors to rooms that are not frequently used can also help keep the rest of the house warmer. Close off rooms like the attic, basement, guest bedrooms, and unused storage areas.
Try to avoid using a space heater when possible. There is an increased risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning and the cords can be a tripping hazard. If a space heater is absolutely necessary be sure to keep it at least three feet from fire hazards such as curtains, bedding, and furniture. Make sure the outlet and wiring are in safe conditions and plug the heater directly into an outlet, not an extension cord.
If power bills are an issue seniors can apply for assistance from the National Energy Assistance Program by calling 1-866-674-6327 or visiting the LIHEAP website.
3. Drive Safely
Winter driving is tough for everyone but it can be especially hazardous for seniors whose vision and reflexes may not be as sharp as they used to be.
Try to get your car serviced before the snow hits. A family member or a caregiver can bring it to a mechanic to get serviced for you. Keeping the brakes, oil, and windshield wipers in good condition can make a world or difference when driving in poor weather conditions.
Avoid driving during or right after snow storms but if you must drive in less than optimal conditions:
- Keep your gas tank full. Fill up when it reaches the half way mark so you always have gas in case of emergencies.
- Store an emergency kit in your trunk. Include a flashlight, water, first aid kit, and a snow shovel in case the car gets stuck.
- If your car gets stuck do not leave the vehicle. Start the car and use the heater for 10-15 minutes every hour. Clear the exhaust pipe of snow so exhaust fumes do not back up. Move your arms and legs to keep blood flowing and to help stay warm.
- Always bring a cell phone or let someone know when you are leaving and what time you will reach your destination.
- If you do not feel comfortable driving in the winter, a caregiver can help assist with errands and driving you to appointments.
4. Risks of Falling
Icy roads and sidewalks increase the risks of falling. Hip fractures, brain injuries, and the loss of independence are just some of the devastating consequences that can result from a fall. Injuries can be prevented by taking precautions in advance.
Overhangs can be installed over doorways to stop ice from building up on stairs and entranceways. Sturdy railings should be built on both sides of walkways.
Seniors should try to avoid shoveling show due to the increased risk of injury but a bag of salt can be placed next to a door with a scooper so you can sprinkle salt by the door entrance.
A sturdy pair of non-skid boots or a pair or shoes with good traction can help prevent slipping when walking to and from the car.
5. Winter Isolation
When the weather takes a turn for the worse, seniors are often temped to stay inside due to the fear of falling and other risks associated with winter. However, this can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Winter time can bring on a risk of inactivity. When it becomes too cold for a walk outside look into joining a mall walking program for some exercise and social contact.
A caregiver can provide transportation to activities as well as providing companionship at home. Many caregivers can help set up video chat sessions on the computer to help family members see each other between visits. Staying in touch via email and photo-sharing websites can help keep elderly family members engaged when its cold outside.
Wintertime poses many challenges for seniors but with a little preparation and extra care, the season can be a wonderful time of year. Home care services lets families feel assured that their loved ones are safe and enjoying life to the fullest, no matter what the weather.
What are some of the nice things you do to help your elderly relatives during the winter? Let us know your tips and ideas in the comments below.