During the winter months, slippery sidewalks and cold weather can cause a wide range of injuries and illnesses, especially for seniors. The following tips will help prevent common cold-weather dangers faced by the elderly population.
- Avoid slipping on ice. Icy, snowy roads and sidewalks make it easy to slip and fall. These falls often cause major injuries such as hip and wrist fractures, head trauma and major lacerations. Make sure to wear shoes with good traction and nonskid soles, and stay indoors until the roads are clear.
- Dress for warmth. Cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia, a condition in which the body temperature dips too low. According to the CDC, people over the age of 65 are at greater risk of hypothermia-related death. So limit the time spent outdoors and dress in multiple layers with a good head covering.
- Fight wintertime depression. Because it can be difficult and dangerous to get around, many seniors have less contact with others during cold months. This can breed feelings of loneliness and isolation. To help avoid these issues, family members can check in on seniors as often as possible. A short, daily phone call can also make a big difference. Seniors can arrange a check-in system with neighbors and friends, with each person looking in on one or two others daily.
- Check the car. Driving during the winter can be hazardous for anyone. But it is especially dangerous for older people, who may no longer drive as often or whose reflexes may not be as quick as they once were. Get your car serviced before wintertime hits—or ask a family member to take it to a garage for you.
- Prepare for power outages. Winter storms can lead to power outages. Make sure you have easy access to flashlights and a battery-powered radio in case the power goes out. Stockpile warm blankets. Longer power outages can spoil the food in your refrigerator and freezer so keep a supply of nonperishable foods on hand that can be eaten cold. If the power goes out, wear several layers of clothing, including a hat. Move around a lot to raise your body temperature. Check out the CDC’s winter weather checklist to make sure you have everything you need.
- Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Using a fireplace, gas heater or lanterns can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Ensure your safety by checking the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector and buying an updated one if you need to. The most important tip to keep in mind during the colder months is to ask for help. Arrange rides to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments—many communities have shuttle services specifically for seniors. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
- ICE (in case of emergency). For seniors who live alone and their long-distance care team: Print out a contact card/in case of emergency card for your senior to give to trusted neighbors, landlords, clergy, and so on to easily locate family members (or power of attorney) should an issue arise.
Wintertime certainly poses challenges for seniors, but with planning and awareness, you will stay healthy and experience the joys of springtime soon enough. Resources cdc.gov/disasters/winter