Keeping the Elderly Safe during the Winter Months
Winter weather brings all kinds of challenges for all of us, but the winter months can be particularly hard on the elderly. Aching bones and limited transportation can be the least of their problems when temperatures reach below freezing. Winter weather can unpredictable, use these tips to help prepare and stay safe during the cold weather.
Prepare for Power Outages
Winter means an increased potential for power outages. In order to prepare yourself, make sure to do the follow:
- Make sure to have a backup source of heat, such as a propane heater. A wood burning stove could work as well, so long as there is a supply of wood readily available.
- Keep flashlights and batteries within close reach.
- Have extra blankets on hand.
- Keep a stock of non-perishable food items and bottled water unless you’re on a well water supply.
- Dress in extra layers
- Exercise daily, moving around to raise your body temperature.
Avoid Falling in Slippery Conditions
Wear good quality shoes with decent traction and be sure to replace any worn canes or walkers. Ask a friend, loved one, or neighbor to shovel your driveway and pour rock salt over ice on porches and steps. Don’t go out unassisted if you believe you could fall. Take off your shoes at the door to avoid creating slippery conditions inside your home. This advice is good for everyone, regardless of age.
Prepare the Car
Ensuring the car is running optimally is essential for seniors. You do not want to be stranded on the side of the road on a cold day. Make sure to service vehicles before the cold weather hits or ask someone to do it for you. Check all fluids, wipers, tires, lights, and engine to make sure the vehicle is safe to drive. Never drive in conditions that make them feel uncomfortable, regardless of the season. If you’re unsure, wait to drive another day.
Wear several layers of clothing inside and keep an eye on the indoor temperature so it doesn’t get too low. If you’re going outside, make sure you wear a heavy coat, thick warm socks, hat, gloves, and a scarf. Do not go outside for extended periods of time and make sure to cover any exposed skin to protect from cold wind. Use a scarf to protect your face and lungs in extremely cold temperatures. These tips are essential to preventing hypothermia during the harsh winter months.
Many of us come down with a case of the winter blues. For seniors with limited mobility, this usually means less contact with others. This could cause anyone to feel lonely and isolated. Encourage family members and friends to check in on seniors as often as possible. If face-to-face visits are not possible, make a short phone call frequently to check in and remind them you care. If possible, arrange a check-in system with neighbors.
Most importantly: seniors should never be afraid to ask for help, especially during the winter months. Seniors everywhere likely need pathways cleared of snow and ice; don’t be afraid to ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to come and help. Look into alternative transportation services for seniors; friends, loved ones, community services or even rideshare services (Lyft and Uber) can help seniors get to appointments and stores without having to drive themselves. Seniors should keep their safety their number one priority.
Remember: When in doubt, ask for help!
About the Author: Victoria K. Stickley is a copywriter, editor, and senior content manager based in the Dallas area. Her graduate education in counseling and research has helped immensely in her writing as well as the care she provides for her grandparents. She currently provides support and resources to senior care websites as she learns and experiences senior care first-hand.