As Jack Frost enters your neighborhood, he brings with him cold weather and ice. This slippery, unpredictable weather can pose a threat to people of all ages, but is particularly hazardous to those who are 65 years and older. How does cold weather affect the elderly? What’s the best way to stay safe once the temperature drops? Here are a few safety tips for seniors from senior home care Seattle caregivers that will help you and your loved ones avoid accidents this Winter.
As you age, your body goes through changes that make winter weather a bit more dangerous to navigate and adapt to. How does cold weather affect the elderly? According to the NIH, “older adults can lose body heat fast—faster than when they were young.” This becomes concerning when you take hypothermia into consideration. If your body temperature drops to 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower you’ll experience hypothermia. The CDC warns that such a low body temperature could result in a “heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.” Seniors may have a harder time identifying that they’re cold.
Cold weather creates ice, which can result in falls and other accidents. Seniors may have a harder time bouncing back from a fall, which is why cold weather is a time for increased caution, especially when heading outdoors.
There are a few easy-to-follow safety tips for seniors that can help you prevent accidents this winter. Here’s what senior home care Seattle caregivers recommend to help you, or a loved one living with dementia, stay safe and independent this season.
Although this may seem obvious, it’s a great way to prevent ice related falls. If you know that a storm has blown through and the sidewalks are slick, don’t try to take care of it yourself. There’s almost certainly someone in your family or neighborhood who would be happy to help ensure that your sidewalk is cleared. If you’re really on your own, consider hiring a senior home care Seattle caregiver who can help you with small tasks around your house.
Sometimes you can’t avoid going outside when it’s icy. In those cases, make sure you’re wearing shoes with traction, that you’ve replaced your cane tip if it’s old, that you’ve had someone clear and salt your pathway, and that you’re not venturing out on your own.
One of the best safety tips for seniors when it comes to preventing hypothermia is to understand if you have an increased risk. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or a thyroid problem, you may have an increased risk of hypothermia. It may be difficult for people with Parkinson’s disease, arthritis or memory loss to get dressed appropriately for the temperature, which means they may need more assistance during the winter months. Finally, certain medications can increase your risk of hypothermia, so talk to your doctor about your current medications to ensure that you understand the risk.
According to the National Institutes of Health, hypothermia presents itself as “slowed or slurred speech, sleepiness or confusion, shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs, poor control over body movements or slow reactions, or a weak pulse.” If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 and try to raise the person’s body temperatures using hats, extra clothing and blankets until help arrives.
Although it may be tempting to be frugal with your electric usage during the winter months, you may be exposing yourself to a higher risk of hypothermia by trying to save a few dollars. Set your heat between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit at the very least. Insulate drafty windows and doors during the winter months. Close off vents and doors in rooms that aren’t being used to focus the warm air to the parts of the house that are actually being used. Senior home care Seattle experts warn that you can get hypothermia in your own home, so be careful.
Whether you’re in your home or going out for the day, make sure you’re dressing for the cold weather. Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks indoors. Layer with insulated layers when you go outside. Always wear a hat outdoors and consider wearing a hat when you go to sleep. Thermal underwear is a great way to layer during the day and while sleeping.
Due to the additional hazards during the winter months, make sure you’re having someone check on you regularly. Guests will be able to tell if your house is too cold, help to remind you to dress in layers, and do additional chores for you. Having a senior home caregiver drop in during the cold months can be really helpful when family and friends are unavailable. You may also want to look into local care management services that offer assistance by trained experts. Care management teams can provide services like trips to the store, wellness checks and company to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with seasonal depression.
Following these winter safety tips for seniors can help prevent falls related to ice, hypothermia and seasonal depression. If you enjoyed this article you may also be interested in our article on other winter safety concerns for seniors. If you have more questions, feel free to contact our senior home care experts for more winter advice.