Cold Weather Safety Tips for Seniors and Caregivers
While getting around and staying warm can be difficult for everyone during the winter months, seniors face unique challenges. However, it’s not necessary to go into hibernation for the next six months. These six winter weather tips can help seniors weather the weather this season.
1. Sidestep Slips and Falls
Falls are a major threat to senior health. From injuries sustained during these accidents to subsequent complications, spills on snow and ice can have dire consequences for seniors. For optimal traction, make sure your aging loved one is outfitted with solid shoes featuring non-skid soles. If he walks with a cane, meanwhile, replacing a well-worn cane tip offers an added level of slip-proof security.
Winter weather can also lead to in-home falls for seniors who inadvertently track snow and ice inside with them. Use a doormat to to prevent moisture from accumulating on hardwood floors, and encourage your loved one to remove his shoes immediately upon entering his home.
When the weather outside is truly treacherous, hibernation -- at least the temporary kind -- can be a smart safety measure.
2. Dress for the Weather
Because of lower metabolic rates, poor circulation and other factors, seniors are particularly susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. In fact, the CDC reveals that people over the age of 65 account for 52 percent of all hypothermia-related deaths.
Wearing warm layers -- including a heavy coat, wool socks, and adequate outerwear accessories -- is an essential part of winter weather dressing. When temperatures dip to extreme lows, make sure to keep all exposed skin covered and use a scarf to help protect the lungs from harsh air. If your aging loved one’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical attention.
3. Practice Good Storm Sense
Unfortunately, power outages can be a fact of life in winter. Make sure your aging loved one’s living space is stocked with everything he needs to make it through several days without power. Flashlights, a battery-powered radio, warm blankets, non-perishable foods, and bottled water are all cold weather essentials. For a comprehensive list of emergency storm supplies, check out the CDC’s useful Winter Weather Checklist. If you’re not able to check on an aging loved one who lives alone in the days following a storm, enlist the help of a local friend or neighbor to stop by on your behalf.
If your loved one still drives, perform a pre-winter car check to ensure that it's up for traveling on wintry roads. Consult FEMA’s “Winterize Your Vehicle” guide for details.
4. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention
Various heating methods, including gas heaters, fireplaces, and even lanterns, can all lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your aging loved one’s carbon monoxide detector is in good condition with working batteries intact.
5. Mental Health Matters
While much of the conversation focuses on the physical health and safety of seniors in winter, mental health is equally important. Winter weather can lead to increased incidences of isolation, which can in turn cause depression. Make sure your aging loved one has an adequate support system of family members, friends and neighbors. If face-to-face contact isn’t possible, digital communications can bridge the gap.
6. Fight the Flu
Because the immune system weakens with age, seniors are particularly vulnerable to the flu. In fact, the CDC estimates that as many as 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people over the age of 65. The flu shot offers a simple yet effective way to protect your aging loved one from flu-related complications.
While earlier is better, it’s never too late to safeguard seniors from the flu. Also, because the virus changes every year and immunity wanes with time, annual flu shots ensure the best possible protection.
While winter’s arrival can be an overwhelming time for seniors, advance planning and preparation ensure optimal safety and wellbeing while offering invaluable peace of mind -- both for seniors and the people who love them.
- Winter weather challenges are amplified for seniors due to age-related complications.
- Safeguarding senior health in winter involves factoring in both physical and mental health concerns.
- Making preparations before winter weather sets in ensures that seniors will be more than ready by winter’s arrival.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.