Winter Safety Tips for Seniors and Caregivers

Ice, snow, and cold temperatures can make life challenging for anyone, but it’s particularly dangerous for senior citizens.  Here are some tips to help prevent some common cold-weather dangers to the elderly and others with mobility impairments:

Preventing winter time falls

Bone fractures are a common problem among the elderly, which happen more frequently in the winter due to wet and slippery conditions.  There are several things you can do to help reduce the risk of falls from icy or snowy conditions:

  • Wear shoes with good traction and non-slip soles
  • Keep walkways clear of ice and snow
  • Stay on sidewalks and areas that have been cleared of ice and snow
  • Use handrails when available
  • Replace worn cane tips
  • Remove shoes or boots as soon as you return indoors to prevent ice and snow from being tracked throughout the house creating slippery conditions inside

Traveling precautions

Older adults can lose heat quickly and be unaware that a change in body temperature is occurring, making them susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, so it is important to take precautionary steps when traveling.  Here are a few things to help prepare for the road:

  • Dress for warmth – dressing in multiple layers will help keep you warm and give you the option to remove layers if temperatures rise
  • Have your vehicle serviced and winterized so it is ready for winter road conditions
  • Stock your car with basic emergency supplies such as: first aid kit, blanket, booster cables, shovel, rock salt, extra warm cloths, non-perishable snacks, and water

Home heating safety

More home fires happen during the winter months then other times of the year because of home heating equipment.  Here are some simple things you can do to protect yourself and stay warm this winter:

  • Keep your indoor temperature at 68 degrees Fahrenheit as a minimum; even though you may be on a budget it’s important to keep your home warm.  To help keep heating bills down consider closing vents in areas not used, putting plastic on windows, and placing rolled towels in front of doors to reduce drafts.
  • If you are using a space heater, keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away to prevent fire.
  • Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are properly installed on each level of the home and that batteries are checked every month.
  • If you are using a wood burning fireplace, have the chimney checked once a year.
  • Always have an ABC multipurpose fire extinguisher available; learn how to use it and ensure it is in working condition annually.

Prevent wintertime depression

Because winter weather can make it difficult and sometimes dangerous to get around, many seniors have less contact with friends and family, bringing feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Here are some ideas to help keep your loved one involved and avoid these issues:

  • Visit often.  A short daily phone call can also make a big difference
  • Use smart technology.  Video chatting is easy to do and still gives the personal feeling of being together when you cannot travel to your loved one’s home.  Voice activated personal assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana can help.
  • Arrange a check-in system with neighbors and friends, where each person looks in on one or two others daily.
  • Look at adult day care options or Commission on Aging groups

Eating Healthy

Spending more time indoors during the winter months can lead to eating a smaller variety of foods and to nutritional deficits, specifically Vitamin D deficiency.  Keep your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer full of a variety of foods and consume foods that are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, grains, and seafood options like tuna and salmon.  For more information on diet check out our blog “Eating Healthy as We Age”

If you have elderly friends, family, or neighbors talk to them when severe weather is coming and make sure they are prepared.  Most importantly, check in on them often.