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Senior Safety Tips: Staying Warm Inside & Outside

Senior Safety Tips: Staying Warm Inside & Outside

Senior Safety Tips: Staying Warm Inside & Outside

Winter is in full swing, which can mean different things for different people. For some, it means ski trips, while for others it's a chance to catch up on some quality hobby time at home. But for seniors in particular, one thing is unanimous: winter can be hazardous to your health.

In addition to slips, pulmonary issues, and winter-related accidents, one major risk category that comes along with the drop in temperature is hypothermia, frostbite, and other illnesses that occur when the body gets too cold.

Remember, as you get older:

  • You don’t feel the temperature changes as much, so you might not even be cognizant of the fact that it’s too cold in your home.
  • Your body doesn’t regulate its temperature like it used to.
  • You are less likely to be as active as you once were, making it harder to maintain body temperature.
  • More than 50% of hypothermia fatalities occur in the elderly.

This is why it’s so important for you to take proactive steps towards keeping yourself warm when the weather gets colder. Here are some easy ways for you to ward off the chill this winter.

Dress for (warm) success

It may sound obvious, but dressing warmer in the winter is one of the easiest ways to keep body temperatures stable and healthy, and yet some neglect its importance. Whether you are going out or staying in, make sure you wear appropriate seasonal clothing that will keep body heat circulating throughout your body.

Indoors: Just because you’re staying inside doesn’t mean you don’t have to protect your body from the cold. Wear multiple layers, including thermals, lightweight sweaters, and hats. Keep layers thin so that you aren’t bogged down or restricting your movement under the bulkiness of thicker clothing.

Outdoors: Outdoor temperatures can be brutal for a senior citizen. In general, if you don’t have to go out, stay inside. If you have to go out, dress appropriately. Wear scarves, gloves, extra socks, hats, and heavy coats. Make sure all of your skin is covered.

Note: While it is not recommended to spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter, it’s also important not to fall out of touch with people completely. Isolation can lead to depression, which is more common in the winter months. So keep in contact with friends and family members, and arrange for visits periodically, even if it means venturing out into the cold.

Stay hydrated

It’s harder to get down those daily eight cups of water in the winter because, frankly, you’re just not as thirsty as you are in the summer months. It’s important to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated during the winter, though, as this will contribute to better health maintenance all around.

Drink warm beverages such as tea and broth to give you the added benefit of a temperature boost.

Checking heating units

At the beginning of the winter season (or even before, if possible), all heating units should be checked to ensure that they’re running properly. All electric components should be tested, batteries changed, and manual systems cleaned and run for efficiency.

Additionally, the home should be kept at a constant 68°F(20°C). A common practice among seniors living alone is to lower the thermostat in the home to save on the electric bill; but this is one area you don’t want to skimp on. After all, the medical bills that you’ll accrue after getting sick from being in a too-cold home will certainly outweigh the slight increase in your electric bill for a few months.

Eating right

Once again, eating right will give your body the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy system and fight off the hazards that winter brings with it. Eat small, balanced meals, have fruits and vegetables planned into your diet, and avoid junk food in excess. And because of the high water content in fruits and vegetables, eating these will also help keep you hydrated.

Stay warm & comfortable

Winter can be an enjoyable time for reading a good book, sitting down to organize an old photo collection, or checking items off of your house chores to-do list. By keeping active and warm using these tips, you will allow yourself to have the healthy and pleasant winter you deserve.

If you are reading this article to help care for an elderly friend or relative, then check out this article for a more comprehensive look at what you can do to help.

Senior Safety Tips: Health Hazards of Cold Weather

Senior Safety Tips: Health Hazards of Cold Weather

Senior Safety Tips: Health Hazards of Cold Weather

As a kid, winter meant snow fights, days off from school, and Christmas presents under the tree. As a senior citizen, well, winter is a whole other ball game! Unfortunately, because of the drop in temperature, icy conditions, and impaired vision or mobility issues, winter ushers in a whole slew of unique health hazards for the older crowd, and many fall victim to these dangers every year.

The good news is that you can prevent cold weather casualties by being aware of the health hazards involved during these times and taking the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe. Take a look at some of the more common winter ailments and what you can do to avoid them.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when the body drops below 95°F (35°C) and the body begins losing heat faster than it can produce it. This is by far one of the most common issues senior citizens experience during the winter. Because their bodies already have a difficult time regulating temperature (something that naturally occurs with age) and because many seniors don’t take the necessary precautions to keep themselves warmer in the winter, hypothermia can set in. Dress warmer during these months and pile up with cozy sweaters and blankets, indoors and out.

Frostbite

Another disease that occurs from the drop in temperatures, frostbite is a painful experience that we hope you never have to experience. There are several ways to prevent this from developing though:

  • Keep appendages dry and covered. Wear mittens, hats, scarves, and plenty of layers.
  • Avoid going outside when the temps get really low. If you must go out, limit your time outdoors.
  • Wear waterproof clothing when venturing out in the cold rain or snow.
  • Change clothing immediately when it gets wet. Particularly socks since the toes are so susceptible to frostbite. Whenever you come in from outside, check your shoes, socks, and clothing to make sure nothing is wet.
  • Eat well, especially before you go out.
  • Get moving! Exercise and other activity will keep blood circulating through your body and increase body temperatures.

If you notice unusual skin conditions such as overly red or pale skin, numbness, or a tingling sensation, call for help immediately.

Falls

The number one injury reported among seniors during the winter is falls. With ice covering the sidewalks, wet slushy snow underfoot, and a general disorientation due to the cold temperatures, falls are almost inevitable if you aren’t careful. Take these precautions to decrease the chances of sustaining a fall injury this winter.

  • Wear shoes with good traction.
  • No-skid soles will also help keep your footing.
  • Don’t go outside until sidewalks have been cleared.
  • Use support while walking over precarious areas. Hold onto railings, ledges, and even someone else if necessary.
  • Get a new cane or walker tip to provide more traction against the ice.
  • Have someone put down salt, kitty litter, or other traction agents along the walkways outside of your home.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Because your home is kept sealed tight to prevent cold air from seeping in, carbon monoxide poisoning danger is more likely to occur in the winter. Here are steps you can take to prevent this:

  • Don’t use kerosene heaters. These emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
  • Keep the home ventilated. Periodically air out your rooms by opening the windows for brief amounts of time during the daylight hours, and don’t run the heat so that it is uncomfortably humid or hard to breathe.
  • Check that all components of your heating units (electric, gas, or fire place) are working properly.
  • Get new batteries for the carbon monoxide detector.

Additionally, use caution when using a heating element. Don’t plug one into an extension cord, keep it at least three feet away from anything flammable, and never place items on top of the heater.

Car accidents

Car accidents can always happen, but in the winter, they’re even more likely. As we mentioned, slippery surfaces, more clouded vision, and general fatigue that comes from combatting the cold contribute to poor conditions and increased car accidents.

Drive at a slower pace than the speed limit allows, take turns carefully, and avoid areas that are particularly hazardous.

Winter increases the likelihood of health issues cropping up, but it doesn’t have to be a guaranteed trip to the emergency room. Follow this simple guide, and you’ll be doing your part towards keeping winter worry-free.

How to Choose the Best Snow-Shovel for Seniors

How to Choose the Best Snow-Shovel for Seniors

How to Choose the Best Snow-Shovel for Seniors

Every winter, thousands of seniors injure themselves while shoveling snow, with slips, falls, hypothermia, frostbite, and muscle strain the usual causes. 

Rather than risk injury, many seniors prefer to hire someone—or ask a friend or neighbor—to shovel them out.  Others avoid risk by installing a heated driveway or using snow-melting mats on outdoor surfaces.  For those of you who are healthy enough and have the inclination to shovel your own snow, it’s important to make sure that you use a proper snow shovel.  It can make the difference for a safe and efficient outcome.    

Here are some tips for choosing the best snow shovel for seniors:

1. Look for a lightweight shovel

Look for a smaller, lighter shovel that will put less strain on your back and heart while you're shoveling. Plastic blades are lighter than metal, and snow doesn’t stick to plastic the way it does to metal. To keep the plastic from becoming brittle and breaking over time, make sure to store your shovel indoors and away from the cold, heat, and light.

2. Consider the blade shape

A flat-bladed shovel is best for chopping out deep layers of snow one layer at a time while a rounded blade is better for both pushing and lifting snow. As much as possible, you should stick to pushing snow rather than lifting it in order to reduce strain. However, sometimes you might need a flat blade, so it can be a good idea to have both.    

3. Test the shovel before purchase

You need to feel a snow shovel in your hands and go through the motions of shoveling snow in order to know if it's light, easy to maneuver, and the right length for you. You should also test the diameter of the handle, since it will affect your grip.  And, if the handle is wooden, be sure that it is smooth and of high quality so that it doesn’t cause splinters.

4. Get an ergonomic handle

An ergonomically designed handle (with a sharp curve) greatly reduces the number of times you need to bend down while shoveling snow. This curve might make it harder to lift heavy loads of snow, but lifting is something seniors should avoid, at any rate. 

5. Consider a non-traditional shovel

Newer snow-shovel models are designed with innovations such as double handles (to maximize leverage) and wheeled handles (to help you shovel faster). You can also find "electric snow shovels," which work like miniature snow blowers. Try out these new models for comfort and efficacy—you may find something that’s just right.

6. Invest in a few accessories

A strong-bristled push broom will push off light dustings of snow while a long-handled scraper tool can help you chip away ice without squatting. You should also use a little sand and de-icer to create traction and prevent black ice formation after shoveling is complete.

7. Keep a compact shovel in your car

You should keep a small plastic shovel with a foldable handle in your car in case of an emergency. Getting stuck in a snow drift while away from home (and away from your snow shovels) is a very real danger. 

Shoveling snow can put a lot of strain on your back and heart. But seniors can reduce the risk of injury by following these tips for choosing the right snow shovel.