Keeping your elderly loved one safe during the winter months
Winter is coming, and that means colder temperatures and hazardous conditions from snow and ice. The winter months can be especially dangerous for older adults, so it is important to make sure that they are prepared for all of the challenges unique to this time of year.
Keep warm inside and bundle up outside
The temperature inside is as important as the temperature outside. Dress warmly, even if you are staying in the house, and make sure your heating is keeping your home warm. Living in a house or apartment that is too cold can leave you vulnerable to hypothermia.
If you need to venture outside, check the forecast and dress for the weather. Just don’t stay out in the cold for very long. Make sure your head and neck are covered and wear layers of loose clothing, as the air between each piece of clothing will help keep you warm.
Avoiding slipping on the ice
It’s all too common for older adults to slip and fall on icy roads and sidewalks during the winter, resulting in broken bones, head trauma and other serious injuries.
Purchase a pair of shoes with good traction or non-skid soles to wear when there is snow on the ground or ice on the sidewalk. Try to also avoid bringing the winter conditions into your home. Make a point to take your shoes off before you ever step foot indoors.
Know the warning signs of hypothermia
When you are out in the cold for an extended period, your body begins to lose heat quickly, causing your body temperature to drop. Hypothermia is what occurs when your body temperature drops below 95°F. This is especially dangerous for older adults, who can be left vulnerable to heart attacks, kidney problems and liver damage.
Common warning signs of hypothermia include cold skin that looks pale or ashy, feelings of tiredness, confusion or weakness, and slowed breathing or heart rate.
Be prepared for power outages
The worst winter storms can lead to a temporary loss of power. To prepare for this, keep a stockpile of blankets and flashlights and a battery-powered radio in your home. You’ll also want to stock up on non-perishable food items, like granola bars, crackers and water, in case the outage lasts long enough to spoil the food in the refrigerator.
To keep your body temperature up, wear several layers of clothing and try to move around.
Winterize your vehicle
If you or your loved one still drive a vehicle, you’ll want to make sure that it is serviced ahead of the winter. This means having the tires, battery, oil and antifreeze checked. Doing so will help keep everyone safe when driving during inclement weather, although driving when the roads are icy should be avoided, if at all possible.
It would also be a good idea to pack the vehicle with a blanket, shovel, flashlight, first aid kit and any other items that might be useful in the event of an accident or a breakdown.
Check your carbon monoxide detector
In the winter, you are more likely to use a fireplace, gas heater or lantern, which places you at greater risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Be sure to check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector or purchase a new one to ensure you or your loved one is safe.