With winter in full swing, many areas throughout the country are experiencing dangerous weather conditions. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable during these situations, as caregivers or emergency call responders may be unable to travel and reach the individual in need. There are some things you can do to help your aged loved one prepare for hazardous winter weather.
Freezing temperatures can be quite dangerous for seniors. If a person’s body temperature falls too low, he or she may suffer from hypothermia or frostbite. These conditions can be fatal. In fact, people over age 65 account for approximately half of the annual deaths caused by hypothermia. The most obvious way to prepare for cold weather is to dress in warm layers. Ask your loved one to stay indoors whenever possible and wear a hat, gloves, and scarf when venturing outside. Warm socks and appropriate footwear are also essential. Indoor temperatures should be kept at a comfortable level. Additionally, it is advised to store extra blankets in case of emergency.
It’s important to prepare for a power outage: not only for cold-weather circumstances, but for any emergency or natural disaster. Ensure that your loved one has easy access to flashlights, batteries, a battery-powered radio, a first-aid kit, some bottled water and nonperishable food items. Most experts agree that about three days worth of supplies are sufficient to get through a minor incident. If a power outage occurs during freezing temperatures, and your older loved ones have no access to heat, it’s crucial that they dress warm indoors and move around frequently to raise core body temperature.
Seniors often become isolated during the winter months because travel is more difficult. Loneliness may lead to depression, so it’s important to initiate frequent contact with the older people in your life. A brief, daily phone call may be enough to keep a person’s spirits up. You can also ask friends or neighbors to stop in and check on your loved one. Frequent contact is the key.
The use of a fireplace, gas or propane heater, or lantern can create dangerous carbon monoxide. It is crucial that you have properly working carbon monoxide detectors in the home if your loved one is heating with these methods. Overexposure to this particular gas can cause serious illness or even death.
Slipping on ice is dangerous for anyone, but seniors are especially prone to injury and complications from a serious fall. To help avoid accidents, ask your loved one to stay indoors until roads and sidewalks are clear. If they must go outdoors, shoes with excellent traction are necessary. Furthermore, remove shoes immediately upon returning indoors because ice and snow that have attached to the shoes will melt, creating slippery indoor conditions. Additionally, replace worn cane tips to help provide safer mobility. Emergency call alert systems are helpful for seniors who live alone.
If your loved one is in a senior living community, check with the community to determine what precautions they take to protect their residents. Confirm they have working Fall detection systems. Ask about how they ensure floors are kept dry, and what procedures are in place to ensure residents, particularly those with dementia, do not wander outside unmonitored.
Winter weather hazards should not be taken lightly. Following these simple precautions can prevent a catastrophe for your aging loved ones. Take the time to ensure that the seniors in your life are prepared for the winter season.