Here is some helpful advice for preventing common winter dangers that the elderly population faces.
- Avoid Slipping on Ice
Icy, snowy roads and sidewalks make it easy to slip and fall. “Unfortunately, falls are a common occurrence for senior citizens, especially during the winter months,” says Dr. Stanley Wang, a physician at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif. Often these falls cause major injuries such as hip and wrist fractures, head trauma and major lacerations.
While younger people often recover relatively quickly from such injuries, older adults face complications, which Dr. Wang says are a leading cause of death from injury in men and women over the age of 65.
Make sure to wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles, and stay inside until the roads are clear. Replace a worn cane tip to making walking easier. Take off shoes as soon as you return indoors because often snow and ice attach to the soles and, once melted, can lead to slippery conditions inside.
To find out more, read our article on Preventing Senior Falls
- Dress for Warmth
Cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia — a condition where the body temperature dips too low. According to the CDC, more than half of hypothermia-related deaths were of people over the age of 65.
So don’t let indoor temperatures go too low and dress in layers. Going outside? Wear warm socks, a heavy coat, a warm hat, gloves and a scarf. In very cold temperatures, cover all exposed skin. Use a scarf to cover your mouth and protect your lungs.
Your body temperature should never dip below 95 degrees — if it does get medical assistance immediately.
- Fight Wintertime Depression
Because it can be difficult and dangerous to get around, many seniors have less contact with others during cold months. This can breed feelings of loneliness and isolation.
To help avoid these issues, family members can check in on seniors as often as possible; even a short, daily phone call can make a big difference. Seniors can also arrange a check-in system with neighbors and friends, where each person looks in on one or two others daily.
For more information on this topic, read our article on Getting Help with the Holiday Blues
- Check the Car
Driving during the winter can be hazardous for anyone. But it is especially dangerous for older people, who may not drive as often anymore or whose reflexes may not be as quick as they once were. Get your car serviced before wintertime hits — 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 on winter roads. Also make sure your AAA membership is up-to-date in case of emergencies.
Winter storms and freezing temperatures have hit the nation hard this week. Dangerous driving, unsafe walking conditions, power outages, power lines heavy with ice or unsafe heating methods are especially dangerous for seniors. Review the following tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe during this winter blast.
Home Heating Safety Tips
- Keep anything flammable at least three feet away from any space heater.
- Make sure a fireplace screen is placed in front of a wood-burning fireplace to catch flying sparks or rolling logs.
- Using a fireplace, gas heater or lanterns can lead to carbon-monoxide poisoning. If you use any of these methods to heat your home, make sure you have proper ventilation. Check the batteries on your carbon-monoxide detector or buy an updated one if needed.
- Purchase an ABC multipurpose fire extinguisher for the home and learn how to use it properly.
Winter Auto and Driving Safety Tips
- In a major snow storm, don’t drive if it’s not completely necessary. If you must drive, go very slow if roads are snow covered or icy.
- Use extreme caution in any freezing temperatures because there may be black ice on the road, which is hard to detect. If you see a sudden shine or change of color to the road, it may indicate black ice.
Winter Outdoor Safety Tips
- Wear boots that are non-skid and always walk slowly! Assume the walkways are icy, even if you can’t see the ice. Always use handrails if available.
- Dress for winter by covering as much exposed skin as possible. Wool and polyester are the best materials for keeping moisture out and warm air in. Cotton is never a safe choice in winter temperatures. Remember, hats, gloves and wool socks will reduce the amount of heat that escapes your body.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a help in any situation that can increase your chances of injuries.