From last bomb cyclone on the east coast and subarctic temperatures in the middle of the country to this week’s snow and ice storms in the Midwest is safe to say that winter and its dangerous conditions is upon us. Winter can be treacherous enough the fittest and most able among our population, but can be especially bad for the most vulnerable among us. Senior citizens can be more at risk for a number of hazards during the winter and it’s important to protect seniors against those hazards. Here are a few important things to remember this winter and every winter.
Icy and Snowy Conditions
We are all at risk of slipping and falling in icy and snowy conditions, but seniors should take extra care as they are usually more prone to fracture, as well as more difficulty in recovering from injuries. Seniors should stay in whenever they’re able to avoid the ice and snow. But, when you must get out, do so with great care. Make sure to wear a pair of good shoes with traction and non-skid soles. Avoid sidewalks and walkways that have not been salted or sanded properly. And always remove your shoes once you go back inside. Snow and ice that melts off your shoes can lead to slippery conditions inside.
When the temperature drops below freezing, be sure to adequately bundle up. All parts of your body should be covered whenever you go outside, as frostbite is a real possibility. Areas most at risk are nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes. Frostbite can happen very quickly, so limit the amount of time you are outside in below freezing temperatures. People with heart disease and other circulation problems are at a higher risk for frostbite, so be sure to wear your Therafirm compression socks to help your circulation.
Hypothermia is another risk of the cold temperatures. When your body temperature drops to a dangerous level. This can happen inside or out! Keep the heat at a comfortable level and dress in layers when inside.
As you can see, winter conditions make it safer to stay at home. But, this can lead to winter depression from isolation. Family members should call and check in on their senior family members often. You can also arrange a calling tree among your friends and neighbors. Each person call the next person on your list to make sure everyone in your circle is doing okay. Don’t forget to add people to your circle that may not have other family.
Keep the Maintenance on Your Car Active
Seniors should avoid driving in hazardous conditions if at all possible. Aging can lower reaction times which need to be at peak performance during ice and snow driving. But, you’ll want to keep your car well-serviced in the event that you do have to be out in the elements. Ensure your car has plenty of antifreeze and wiper fluid. Check the wipers to ensure they can adequately keep the windows free of precipitation. And, check the tires regularly. Colder temperatures can affect the air pressure in tires. You’ll also want to make sure the tires have plenty of tread or change them out for snow tires. It’s also a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your car that includes: a first aid kit; a warm blanket; booster cables; a windshield scraper; shovel and a flashlight.
It’s important to be ready for whatever the winter throws at you. And sometimes that means power outages. Make sure you have easy access to flashlights, a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, and plenty of blankets and some non-perishable food. If the power goes out during cold temperatures, layer up with your clothes and move around as much as possible to keep your body temperatures up. If the outage lasts very long, you will want to arrange for a good, warm place to go until the power is restored.
Winter Time Diet
It’s easy to become Vitamin D deficient during the winter time – especially for seniors. Be sure to have this checked with your doctor. You can take a Vitamin D supplement, as well as eating foods that are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, yogurt, egg yolks and tuna.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Fires
Another winter time danger is the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning and fires. Using a fireplace, gas heater or lanterns can lead to carbon monoxide dangers, as well as warming up your car in unsafe conditions. Always make sure that if you’re warming up your car, your garage door is open and the tailpipe isn’t blocked. Also, be careful with space heaters, fireplaces or stoves. Keep them clear of curtains, furniture or blankets and don’t leave unattended.
Shoveling looks easy enough, but it is truly grueling and back-breaking work. If you have a heart condition, shoveling can put too much strain on your heart. It can also be dangerous for those with weak bones or problems with balance. The best suggestion is to hire a service to shovel for you. Or, even a neighbor kid on a snow day.
Avoid the Flu
They say the flu is bad this year, and as with many other winter hazards, unfortunately seniors are more at risk of developing influenza. The flu shot is one of the best ways to prevent the flu. The CDC says that it is especially important for people over 65. Even in years where the shot is less effective, it still reduces the chances of getting flu. And if you end up getting the flu anyway, it can lessen the symptoms and duration.
Winter hazards are not fun for anyone, but are especially dangerous for our senior citizens. But, careful planning and consideration can help seniors weather even the worst hazards.