Winter is upon us and summer has never felt farther away than it does right now. While you may or may not enjoy the cold and snow, it’s a season that can be very dangerous for the elderly. Cold and ice are leading factors in senior death and injuries, and this is the time when it happens the most. Health in Aging has a lot of helpful information on the best ways to keep yourself safe through the coldest month of the year.
Here’s a quick reference list for the most important precautions a senior can take over the winter:
- Stay indoors (or don’t stay outside for very long).
- Keep indoor temperature at 65 degrees or warmer.
- Stay dry because wet clothing chills your body more quickly.
- Dress smart – protect your lungs from cold air. Layer up! Wearing 2 or 3 thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing is warmer than a single layer of thick clothing. Think about getting your thermals!
- Essential winter wear: hats, gloves (or preferably mittens), winter coat, boots, and a scarf to cover your mouth and nose.
Those are the first steps to take for a safe winter and they shouldn’t be ignored.
Frostbite is easily one of the easiest ways to get injured. Winter safety for the elderly should always include protection against frostbite. You always want to cover up as much as you can. Any part of your body that’s exposed to the cold is at risk of frostbite. It’s also important to look for the warning signs, skin that’s white or ashy or grayish-yellow; skin that feels hard or waxy; numbness. If you think you or someone else has frostbite, call for medical help immediately.
There are about ten million different ways for a senior to slip on an icy walkway. This can easily lead to broken bones or much worse. Here are some simple precautions for everyone to take:
- Make sure steps and walkways are clear before you walk. Be especially careful if you see wet pavements that could be iced over.
- Clear away snow and salt your walkways at home, or hire someone to do it.
- Wear boots with non-skid soles – this will prevent you from slipping.
- If you use a cane, replace the rubber tip before it is worn smooth.
- Consider an ice pick-like attachment that fits onto the end of the cane for additional traction.
Finally, carbon monoxide poisoning is a very dangerous risk factor over the winter. Anyone using a fireplace or wood burning stove can easily succumb to the smoke it produces. This is especially true when you’re talking about winter safety for the elderly. Unless fireplaces, wood and gas stoves and gas appliances are properly vented, cleaned, and used, they can leak dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide, which is a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell. These and other appliances, such as space heaters, can also be fire hazards.
Here are the warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
Have a Safe Winter
Pay attention to what’s going on and take as many precautions as you possibly can. That’s the only way to enjoy a safe winter until the sun comes back out and the flowers bloom again!