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Winter Safety for Older Adults
Ice, snow, and cold temperatures are a challenge for anyone. Older adults, however, need to take extra precaution when braving the cold in the frigid winter months. In this climate, senior citizens are more at risk for hypothermia, falls, frostbite, and other winter-related accidents. It’s therefore important for those over the age of 65 to take extra precautions in the cold weather. Here are some risks and their associated safety precautions to ensure your loved one’s safety in the snow this year:

Hypothermia

Because of the physiological changes associated with aging, older adults are more susceptible to hypothermia: a significant and potentially dangerous drop in body temperature. Their bodies lose heat more quickly, and they may be unaware that a change in body temperature is occurring.

Precautions:

  • Dress in layers! This will help the body maintain a warmer temperature and reduce heat loss.
  • Stay indoors when possible or minimize the time spent outside in the winter months.
  • Don’t stay immobile for too long—keep your blood flowing.
  • Stay dry—wet clothing decreases your body temperature more quickly.
  • Keep indoor temperatures 68°F or more, and be sure that there aren’t any significant drafts from windows and doors.

Falls 

Older adults are especially at risk for falling in the winter months due to icy, snow roads and sidewalks.

Precautions:

  • Wear proper footwear. Be sure that your shoes have good traction and non-skid soles.
  • Replace worn cane and walker tips to make walking easier.
  • Remove shoes as soon as you return indoors—snow and ice often attach to soles of shoes and, once melted, can lead to slippery conditions inside.
  • Stay indoors when possible, or until snow and ice have been cleared from your property.
  • Stay inside after dark.

Wintertime Depression

While staying indoors helps to prevent injury, it can also lead to mental health complications such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Having less contact with others during the winter months and less exposure to sunshine can breed feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Precautions:

  • Family members can check in on their senior loved ones as much as possible during the cold weather. A short, daily phone call can make a big difference.
  • Invest in a light box. A light box mimics natural outdoor light, and can be useful in making up for the decreased sunshine exposure in the winter.
  • Talk to your doctor about adding vitamin D as a supplement.
  • Stay social—engage in video chats and check ins with family and friends. If visiting isn’t possible, arrange for a video chat movie night with your loved one.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Gas-powered furnace and alternative heating sources can increase the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Unless fireplaces, wood, and gas stoves and appliances are properly taken care of, they can leak dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide (CO).

Precautions:

  • Be sure to have working smoke and CO detectors on each floor of your home.
  • Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. Look out for headaches, weakness, blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, and nausea or vomiting.
  • Call an inspector to have the chimney, water heater, and HVAC professionally inspected.
  • Never use a gas oven to heat the home.
  • Turn off the car right away in the garage.
Happier at Home can help ensure your loved one’s safety during this season in their own homes. Having a Happier at Home caregiver to monitor your loved one during the cold winter months will help to avoid any risks mentioned above. Call us today!
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