Guest Blog by Josephine Levin
Whether it’s Jack Frost nipping at the window pane or the sound of rain splattering on the windows, winter presents extra challenges for seniors, whether they remain indoors or venture out. Here are some tips to stay safe.
Falls, Fractures and Hip Protectors
Seniors are more prone to falling, even at home, than the rest of the population. Moreover, winter snow and ice can increase the chance for a fall. Hip fractures from falls are a leading cause of disability in the elderly and complications from hip fractures can lead to early death. In general, for seniors prone to falling, particularly if they also suffer from osteoporosis, it is a good idea to wear special hip protecting hard or soft padded underwear.
Skid Proof Ice Proof Canes and Boots
When venturing out in the snow, the most dangerous scenario is a sheet of ice covered and hidden by soft snow. Even if seniors have good sturdy snow boots with non-slip soles, this may not be enough to prevent skidding on ice and falling. Special removable ice pics can be attached to boots and these have prongs which cut into the ice. However, these ice pics must be removed from the boots when walking on a plowed sidewalk or on a normal floor, as they can also cause a person to trip. Likewise, a walking cane that skids on the ice can literally cause a person to fall down in full force and be left with a fractured hip, spine or skull. This can usually be prevented by purchasing a retractable ice pick to be applied to the bottom of the cane. However, this ice pick must also be removed or pulled back when walking on a normal floor or sidewalk, or it can lead to falls. In general, a walker or rollator is far safer than a cane when it comes to preventing loss of balance and falling, but ice and packed down snow can make a walker move too fast which can also lead to falls.
Emergency Stockpile Food, Water and Meds
Since it is best for seniors not to go out in stormy weather, it is imperative to have an emergency stockpile of canned foods, can opener, bottled water, pet foods and prescription meds to last for at least a week or more.
Hypothermia, Winter Heating, Safety and Power Outages
Before winter sets in seniors should make sure their heating system is in good shape and that properly functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed on every floor. Many seniors are on tight budgets and winter heating can be expensive. If it is too cold a senior can suffer from hypothermia. It is helpful to stay warm by wearing several layers of clothes. However, overly heated homes and rooms can also lead to health problems by causing excessive drying up of the nose, eyes and skin. In this case, using a cold steam humidifier can offer some relief.
It is very important not to rely only on portable electric space heaters, but to have another backup source of heating in case of a power outage like a fuel based heater or a wood burning fireplace or stove. Make sure to have a window open to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in any room using a gas or kerosene heater. Seniors should also have extra light bulbs, an emergency lantern, battery operated radio, extra batteries, emergency survival blankets, candles and water proof matches.
Communication with the Outside World
Seniors should have both a landline and a mobile phone. Of course a major winter blizzard can knock out both electric power and telephone lines. It is a good idea, especially for seniors who live alone, to have a push-button alert on their wrists that can reach emergency services.
In conclusion, these tips will help you safely enjoy a winter wonderland!