While it is important for everyone to take extra precautions during the winter months, seniors (and senior caregivers) must pay special attention to home environments out outdoor conditions. As individuals age, they become more susceptible to falling on ice, hypothermia, and other cold-related dangers. However, by following a few tips, you can keep yourself safe and your loved ones free from winter harm.
Five Important Actions for Seniors and Caregivers to Take in the Winter
Seniors can enjoy winters by taking the following steps to minimize risk. And if you are a caretaker, make a checklist to review with the senior to ensure that they have everything they need.
Keep the Pantry and the Medicine Cabinet Stocked
Winter storms and freezing temperatures can keep seniors house-bound for days. So, make sure that there is plenty of food in the house – including non-perishables in case the power goes out. Then, even more importantly, keep an eye on necessary, prescribed medication to avoid a potential health emergency.
Keep Home Temperatures Warm
Sometimes seniors living at home want to save money by keeping the thermostat down on colder day, but this is not a recommended practice. Often, seniors do not realize that they are getting too cold until hyperthermia sets in. Then, unless treated immediately, this condition can lead to heart attacks, kidney problems, or worse. Experts advise seniors and caregivers to keep home temperatures at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make Good Preparations for Outdoor Excursions
Many independent seniors insist on taking outdoor walks even in the winter. Or, others who still drive must get to and from their vehicles and navigate slippery parking lots. So, all seniors who venture outdoors during snowy or icy conditions should dress warmly (preferably in layers with proper head, face, and hand protection. In addition, seniors should only wear supportive footwear with excellent tread when walking outside. You may even want to consider purchasing inexpensive traction devices that easily slip over shoe bottoms such as those sold by Yaktrax.
Avoid Space Heaters
Unfortunately, winter brings an increase in home fires, largely due to residents who use alternative heat sources such as space heaters. So, if possible, play it safe by not using these fire-causing devices in your home and encourage all seniors in your life to do the same. Even seniors who use fireplaces should exercise extra precaution. For example, make sure the fireplace is covered by a large, sturdy screen to prevent sparks from landing on carpets and igniting blazes. In addition, double check to be sure that working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are properly installed.
Stay in Contact
If you are an independently living senior, call friends and family members often to let them know that you are okay and to inform them if you need anything. Or, if you have senior friends or family members, check in with them frequently. They will likely appreciate your efforts, and you will feel better knowing that they are safe.