Tips For Winter Preparation For Seniors
During snowy days, there are ways for the elderly to get help with new challenges that arise. Older people, especially those who are homebound or disabled, face significant health risks in the winter season. Depending on where you live, winter may be hazardous or no different from other seasons. With the right precautions, however, you can minimize risks and enjoy safe and relaxed wintertime.
1. Prepare for icy conditions.
Seniors greatly benefit from having loved ones, neighbors, or hired services shovel snow off of their driveways for them. Snow and ice present significant fall risks, so you will need it removed. Enlisting someone else’s help is crucial because the strain and low temperatures of snow shoveling put seniors at risk for heart attacks. Having high blood pressure, a history of heart attacks or heart disease increases these risks. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who can shovel the driveway for you.
If you drive and own a garage, parking your car in it can protect you from falls in your driveway. Because seniors also fall inside their homes due to leaving wet boots on the ground, you should take extra care to avoid slippery paths and wear footwear that grips. Due to the risk of power outages, you should keep an easily accessible emergency kit containing first aid supplies, blankets, a flashlight, batteries, and a radio. Additionally, you should stock up on three days’ worth of nonperishable food and water, plus at least a seven-day supply of any prescription medications you may need. An emergency kit for your car should include water, blankets, sand or kitty litter, emergency flares, snow scrapers and brushes, heating packs, and a car phone charger. It is important to keep the gas tank full and keep loved ones updated on your departures and arrivals.
2. Stay safe and warm at home.
Seniors have distinct risks from being too cold, especially if they have heart problems. Many suffer from dehydration, hypothermia, pneumonia. You should make sure your thermostat is set to about 68 degrees to avoid hypothermia and prevent your home’s pipes from freezing. Proper insulation and window caulking will protect your home from drafts. Indoors and outdoors, wearing loose-fitting layers can keep you warm; waterproof mittens or gloves, sweaters, and coats are a must, and wearing a hat will help you conserve the 50% of body heat that would be lost otherwise. Ideally, you should keep warm inside with throw blankets, warm socks, and slip-resistant closed-back slippers.
It is imperative to maintain your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in winter if you use natural gas, coal, oil, or wood to heat your home. More than 400 people die and 20,000 people go to the ER due to carbon monoxide poisoning each year. Seniors’ households may experience fires due to malfunctioning space heaters or electrical blankets, candles, and dry Christmas trees. Keeping batteries in your alarms can protect you from these threats, as can taking cautions with these fire and carbon monoxide hazards.
Seniors often arrange emergency plans with their loved ones during winter. In addition to the steps above, these include keeping a backup phone in case your cellphone loses power or connection. If you anticipate staying with loved ones before a storm, pack the emergency essentials above and only leave if you know it will be safe.
3. Prepare nutritious meals and stay hydrated.
As mentioned, you should always have at least a three-day supply of food. In addition to emergency nonperishables you should not need to cook, however, you should be sure to eat vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. You can gain needed fiber, antioxidants and vitamin B from foods such as greens, apples, oranges, squash, and bananas. Bread and dairy products can help you fight off seasonal depression and colds with vitamin D, and high-protein foods such as meat will help you maintain healthy bone and muscle mass. Good nutrition will decrease your risk of hypothermia and other cold-related conditions. If needed, you can have Meals on Wheels deliver hot, healthy meals to your door.
Staying hydrated is especially important in winter when the cold weather has many seniors drinking less water and losing moisture through the dry air. Symptoms of dehydration in seniors include dizziness, confusion, and infrequent or dark urine. Drinking about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day will help; remembering to drink water with every meal is easiest, but you should drink the recommended amount even if you do not feel thirsty.
4. Keep exercising and socializing.
Continuing to exercise through cold weather can help you strengthen your immune system against seasonal ailments such as pneumonia and respiratory infections. Even colds will become easier to fight off with adequate exercise. Additionally, exercise will improve your circulation and regulation of body temperature so that you will be protected from other temperature-related issues such as chills. You can get exercise in winter by taking walks in indoor spaces (e.g. malls) or joining senior fitness classes at a gym near you. Socializing with other seniors there can help you avoid seasonal depression.
As for other social opportunities, there are many other community activities and organizations where you can meet others. These include free classes and activities for seniors at colleges and churches. If you are homebound, you can arrange visitation from churches, libraries, and other organizations you can discover from your local senior center. Exposure to light and traveling to new places can also alleviate seasonal depression, so staying with loved ones for the holidays or otherwise keeping in contact with them is ideal.
Coordinating the above steps with your loved ones can help you be safe and content through the winter months. From snow shoveling to meals to companionship, there are plenty of services the community can provide so that you weather the winter months comfortably. The most important part is to keep up with the weather in advance so that you can prepare in advance. Afterward, you can relax through the restful winter months and look forward to the coming spring.
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