Winter Tips for Seniors

Ice, snow and freezing temperatures accompany the winter season. All of these characteristics of winter can cause dangerous accidents and illnesses. The dangers that come with winter can be prevented, though. There are certain preventive steps to take and valuable information to know that can help defend against the winter elements.

First, there are ways to prepare your home for winter weather. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health provides some helpful tips.

  • Make sure you have a way to heat your home in case of power failure. Have a fire extinguisher handy when using alternative heat sources.
  • Keep certain items on hand: extra blankets, flashlights, matches, first aid kit, manual can opener, snow shovel and rock salt.
  • Have extra water and medications, and have food that doesn’t need refrigeration or preparation in case the weather is bad enough to keep you from leaving your home.
  • Keep your home warm or stay at a friend or family’s warm house in extreme temperatures. This is especially important if you have infants and for seniors.

Taking measures to prevent falls is also important with the icy and snowy winter weather. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, one third of all adults at least 65 years of age fall each year.

  • Ensure walkways are well lit, and keep ice melt and a snow shovel just outside the door to avoid the risk of slipping on ice.
  • Keep mats just inside of doorways so people can rub the snow and ice off their shoes.
  • Wipe up puddles inside.
  • Put rubber tips on ends of canes and walkers, or modify them with metal grips or ice picks.

The extreme temperatures of winter can also cause sicknesses such as the flu and colds. Another serious and common condition not often thought of is hypothermia. Seniors are at serious risk for hypothermia, especially those who are diabetics and smokers, or who have peripheral vascular disease or circulatory problems. There are certain things to do and know about hypothermia.

  • Check the thermostat daily to make sure it is high enough. The National Institutes of Health recommends seniors set them at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
  • Look out for symptoms of hypothermia in you or a loved one. These include confusion, lethargy, poor coordination, slurred speech, intense shivering, persistent purple fingers and toes, numbness, and weak or irregular pulse.
  • Seek emergency medical help when you or a loved one is experiencing hypothermia. Warm them up with blankets and be careful not to rub parts of their body. Do not put them in a hot bath or shower.

With today’s economic hardships, it may be financially difficult to keep homes heated properly. But there are inexpensive ways to help keep the heat in and the cold out.

  • Apply inexpensive plastic sheets to the inside of windows.
  • Minimize use of ventilation fans.
  • Close the vents in rooms you don’t use and close doors to those rooms to keep cold from spreading throughout home.

The winter season can be a dangerous time for people. By preparing for this season, you can help prevent falls and sickness, and make it more comfortable. With preparation, you may be able to improve your winter.