Tips for Keeping Seniors Winter-Safe
Prevent falls Icy patches can be tricky for everyone. But for seniors, any slip or stumble can lead to serious injury, from hip and wrist fractures to head trauma, lacerations, or even bad bruising that limits mobility.
Be cautious and stay inside when weather and snow is heavy. After a heavy snow day when snow begins to melt and temperatures are still low ice becomes a huge hazard. Be very careful when walking outside during icy weather. To handle ice and sleet safely, make sure your loved one has winter shoes with good traction and non-slip soles and, if they use a cane, replace the cane tip for best use. Once you’ve come inside, make sure both you and your loved ones leave any wet or icy shoes at the door to prevent slippery surfaces on hardwood or linoleum floors.
Prepare for outages and storms. Snowstorm blackouts may be exciting for the kids, but lack of electricity or downed power lines can lead to harmful situations for seniors. Prepare for limited travel ability or black-outs by creating a disaster kit of needed supplies and food to keep on hand. Your kit should include non-perishable food and water for several days, as well as a manual or battery-operated can opener, and battery-powered flashlight, radio, and extra batteries. And don’t forget the medicine! Make sure you have extras of your loved ones’ necessary medications and first aid essentials.
Watch your heating appliances. Space heaters, electric blankets, and other heat sources may be cozy and warm in cold climates, but they must be handled safely. Before using any device, check that there are no signs of damage, age, or fraying to the material or power cords. When in use, make sure that avoid covering the device and keep any heat source away from flammable materials. If you’re snuggling by a fireplace or warming up with gas heaters, prevent dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning by keeping an updated, working carbon monoxide detector nearby.
Stay covered and warm. Cold temperatures can be a risk of easily preventable frostbite and hypothermia—-especially for those over age 65. And since we can’t stay indoors all winter long, make facing the cold a little easier by taking note of a few important cold weather steps: Don’t skimp on the heating bills — keep your senior’s indoor space at a comfortable temperature, Don’t forget to check on heating appliances, boilers, and utility bill payments to avoid being left in the cold! Don’t skip bundling up with layers: socks, heavy coats, gloves, scarf, and a hat can keep everyone cozy and warm all winter long. Don’t forget to stay warm indoors too—remind your loved ones to dress warmly if the house has drafts, chilly bathrooms, or cold floors.
Fight the winter blues. Feeling gloomy under the grey skies? That’s pretty common! Cold winters, with the lack of sun and limited social outings, can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression for everyone.
To help your elderly loved one or patient beat the winter blues, make sure to maintain a regular schedule of visitors or phone calls—or consider setting up a home companion or adult daycare schedule. A daily check-in not only keeps loneliness at bay, but also ensures there’s always someone to notice any health or environment changes that may be worrisome.
Keep a healthy diet. In the colder months, dehydration and poor nutrition are common causes of poor health for seniors. Limited time outdoors, lack of exercise and poor diet can lead to vitamin deficiencies, especially Vitamin D. And since it’s chilly outside, it’s easy to forget a daily water intake—which can lead to dehydration. Focus on maintaining sufficient fluid intake and a fortified, balanced diet to keep healthy and fight off the sniffles, all year long.
Be safe, stay safe, and enjoy the Holidays with the people you love!