Winter weather can cause challenges for everyone, but it can pose especially difficult circumstances for older adults. During the winter seniors face risks that range from higher rates of seasonal depression to hypothermia from poorer circulation. As we enter colder months make sure to check on your loved ones often and review our tips for a safe and healthy winter.
Here are 9 steps you can take to protect your senior loved one this winter:
- Peak flu season usually starts just after the holidays and older adults are at higher risk for getting the flu. Encourage your loved one to get a flu shot. It’s one of the best ways to prevent being down and out for weeks and avoiding the winter blues due to illness.
- A common problem among the elderly is broken hips, which happen more frequently in winter due to wet and slippery conditions. Seniors should wear shoes with non-skid soles, stay only on sidewalks and shoveled areas, use handrails and avoid getting out after dark or in hazardous weather conditions. Make sure sidewalks are kept clean and if family finances make that difficult to do, contact your local agency on aging for resources on assistance.
- Isolation is a health risk for seniors who live alone. It often gets worse during the cold winters. Remember to visit seniors who are shut in and living alone. A simple visit can go a long way in brightening their day.
- Vitamin D deficiencies are more common during the winter. Your older loved should talk with their doctor to see if they recommend adding a vitamin D supplement to their daily regimen.
- By helping an older family member keep their pantry well-stocked, as well as have an emergency supply of medication on hand, you can eliminate the need for a trip to the store during severe weather.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older adults are at greater risk for hypothermia. Seniors should dress in layers to help them stay warmer. Loose-fitting clothing made of natural fabrics is best. Older adults can lose body heat much faster than when they were younger. A big chill can turn into a dangerous problem before an older person even knows what’s happening. Learn more about hypothermia.
- Be sure your senior has proper winter gear like winter boots and shoes with non-skid soles. If they use a cane or similar assistive device, be sure it has an ice grip on the tip. Remind them to wear a hat and mittens anytime they will be outdoors in the winter.
- Storm ready pantry helps reduce the risk for an injury. By helping an older family
- More home fires happen during the winter months than any other time of the year mainly due to home heating devices. Heating devices can cause added dangers especially those fueled by gas, oil, kerosene or wood. Reducing Fire Hazards for Portable Electric Heaters Some simple things seniors can do to protect themselves are:
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the home.
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from the space heaters, and if possible use one that automatically shuts off if the heater falls over
- Make sure to have a glass front or screen in front of your wood burning fireplace to catch flying sparks and rolling logs.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created a guide you might find to be helpful in staying safe during the winter season. Winter Storms and Extreme Cold contains a variety of information ranging from how to shut off water valves if a pipe bursts to how to communicate with family during power outages.