Every year winter weather is blamed for accidents and injuries for people of all ages, but seniors can be especially vulnerable. Planning is the key to seasonal safety; here are a few tips for seniors to prepare for the winter months ahead.
Preparing Your Home
Preparation for winter starts at home. You should have supplies to keep warm and fed, especially in the case of a power outage. Keep in mind that you could be snowed in or without power for a few days. Here are some tips to prep your home for a possible winter storm that may leave you stranded.
• Stock up on batteries for your flashlights; keep a flashlight by your bed and another in the main living area of your home for easy access.
• Make sure there are extra blankets that are easily accessible.
• Make sure to have enough food and extra drinking water (in case of frozen pipes or other water issues) to last a few days.
• Always keep your medications filled with at least a week’s worth of doses available in case you are unable to get your prescriptions filled during a storm.
In addition to your home, your vehicle should be prepared for the winter months ahead. Bring in your vehicle for a winter inspection to ensure all the safety systems are in good condition. This includes brakes, tires, windshield wipers and a battery check. Keep jumper cables in the trunk, along with supplies like blankets, water, flashlight and food in case you are stranded.
You want to avoid driving in precarious weather whenever possible. Even if you are an excellent winter driver, there are others on the road that are not used to driving in snow and ice. It is better to stay home and be safe than to end up in an accident. Only leave the house if it is necessary during poor driving conditions.
Bundle Up Before You Go Outside
Hypothermia is a real threat for seniors – the CDC estimates that elderly make up over half of all hypothermia deaths each year. If severe winter weather hits, it is always best to stay indoors. However, if you must go out, make sure you are dressed appropriately. Cover your extremities as you can lose much of your body temperature through your head, hands and feet. Wear layers so you can remove the top layers if you get too warm.
Preventing Slip or Fall Injuries
Older adults are susceptible to fall injuries, especially when there is poor traction on the ground. Anyone can slip on ice or snow, but seniors are more likely to have a serious injury. Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries for the elderly, with an estimated one out of four seniors over 65 years of age falling every year. The CDC estimates 2.8 million seniors end up in the hospital for fall injuries every year, especially when the weather creates unstable surfaces.
Fall prevention should be practiced all year, especially for seniors. Adding handrails to stairways, bathtubs and even in the hallways can add extra safety to your home. Remove loose rugs and other clutter on the floor that could cause a trip hazard – this is especially important in the dark if the power goes out. Have repairs made around the home to fix fall hazards like uneven sidewalks, loose floor tiles and broken steps. Makes sure floors are kept dry – remove shoes at the door to reduce the risk of water or ice creating slippery floors.
For preventing falls in the winter season, be prepared for ice and snow. Do not attempt to shovel or remove snow on your own – hire a snow removal service to clear your walkways and driveway. Ask them to apply ice melt after the areas are cleared to ensure the surfaces are completely free from ice patches.
Make sure you have excellent traction on your outdoor footwear when you do venture outside. As an extra precaution, consider using a walking stick or cane when you walk outside in slippery conditions. Even if you don’t usually need assistance, it is better to proceed on the side of caution when it comes to falls.
Beyond the safety precautions for your home and vehicle, you also want to keep yourself healthy during the winter. The cold weather can affect your immune system, making you more vulnerable to the many cold and flu bugs that hit hardest in the winter. Make sure to get in to see your doctor to get a flu vaccination and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables for good nutrition. A head cold, fever or flu bug can cause weakness, dizziness and balance issues that can contribute to falls and other safety issues.
The winter season can be beautiful when you stay safe and warm. With a little preparation and a few precautions, you can enjoy a safe, healthy winter ahead.