During the winter months it can be more difficult to get around and stay warm for everyone, seniors especially. The holidays are a happy time of year but also bring about additional risks. Follow these helpful tips and your loved one won’t be forced into hibernation during the winter and can stay safe during the holidays.
1. Dress for the Weather
Lower metabolic rates and poor circulation leave seniors especially susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. According to the CDC 52% of all hypothermia-related deaths are in people over age 65. Have your loved one dress in layers when going outside with a heavy coat, thick socks, a warm hat, gloves and a scarf. When temperatures are very cold be sure all skin is covered and use a scarf to help cover the mouth and protect their lungs from the air.
If your loved ones body temperature drops below 95 degrees, get medical attention immediately.
2. Watch for Ice
Complications from falls are a leading cause of death from injury in adults over the age of 65.During the winter, icy and snowy road and sidewalks make it easy to slip and fall down. Falls can cause major injuries like head trauma, hip or wrist fractures and major lacerations.
Be sure your loved one is wearing shoes with good traction and non-skid soles when going out. If they walk with a cane, make sure to replace the cane tips if heavily worn. Also make sure shoes are taken off immediately on returning inside so the floors don’t get wet and slippery. And remember, if the weather outside is truly bad, have your loved one stay inside.
3. Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Heating methods like fireplaces, lanterns and gas heaters can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your loved ones carbon monoxide detector is in place with working batteries.
4. Watch Out for Wintertime Depression
During the cold months it can be difficult for your loved one to get around which can bring on feelings of isolation and loneliness. Help avoid these feelings by checking in on them often, even if it is just a phone call.
5. Be Prepared for Power Outages
Winter storms can bring on power outages. Make sure your loved ones home is equipped with everything they need to survive several days without power. Some important things to keep around include: flashlights, battery-powered radio, warm blankets, non-perishable foods, bottled water and cold weather clothing. If you aren’t able to check in on your loved one in the days following a storm, ask the neighbor to stop by and check on them.
6. Holiday Fire Hazards
The holidays bring lots of pretty lights and decorations, but with that come an increased risk of fires. Many holiday decorations involve combustible materials like tissue paper and cottons. These materials should be kept away from fireplaces and candles to avoid igniting.
For Christmas trees, an artificial tree which is labeled fire resistant is the safest choice. If using a real tree, be sure it is watered and that needles don’t dry out. Dying trees should be removed immediately.
The lights on your tree should be labeled as indoor lights and are preferably LED as they burn cooler. Also be sure that electrical cords are out of the way of walking paths to avoid your loved one tripping.
Make sure smoke detectors are in working order, you have at least one fire extinguisher and you have an emergency fire plan in place in case of a fire.
While winter is a challenging time of year for seniors, a little bit of planning and awareness will help them stay happy and healthy until the weather warms up.