Cold weather months are upon us – it’s important for seniors to be prepared. Ice and snow can make it difficult for older adults to get out of the house, which in turn makes it harder to do things like socialize and shop for groceries.
As the weather gets colder, make sure the seniors in your life know these ten tips on preparing for cold weather.
Avoid slipping on ice
Did you know that an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds? Ice and snow on roads and sidewalks can make it easy to slip and fall. Falls can lead to cuts and bruises, hip and wrist fractures, and head trauma. Recovering from a fall can take a long time and has a serious impact on quality of life.
Avoid slipping on ice by wearing shoes with good traction and non-slip soles. If you use a cane, be sure that your cane tip is not worn. If necessary, replace the cane tip.
Try not to leave home until the roads have been cleared. When you return from a trip out, take off your shoes as soon as you get inside. Snow and ice that sticks to your shoes will melt and make your floors slippery.
Learn how to protect yourself from falls. VANTAGE Aging teaches Matter of Balance, a fall prevention program by Steady U Ohio. The program aims to lower the number of fall-related injuries by increasing seniors’ activity levels and reducing their fear of falling.
Cold temperatures can be more than unpleasant – they can be dangerous, especially to seniors. Dress in layers to stay warm out in the cold and comfortable indoors. When you go outside, wear a warm coat, hat, gloves, scarf, and socks. Cover exposed skin to avoid frostbite.
Fight isolation and depression
Cold weather can make it hard to get out of the house and socialize. Many seniors have less contact with friends and family during winter months. This kind of isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
To avoid isolation, have friends, family members, and neighbors check in on you. A simple phone call can make a big difference. VANTAGE RSVP can provide trained volunteers to call you or someone you know through the Telecare program. You schedule a time for a volunteer to call. You can have a friendly conversation or just a quick check-in, whichever you prefer.
If you notice a senior in your life showing signs of depression or loneliness, meeting with a counselor could be beneficial. VANTAGE Behavioral Solutions’ professional counselors specialize in older adults and can visit a senior in their home (in Summit County).
Audit your home
Is your home ready for cold weather? There are things you can do to prevent losing heat and avoid paying high energy bills.
Help your house hold heat by installing weather stripping and insulation. Close window drapes and doors to spaces in your home that you do not often use. Get your heating system checked by a qualified professional.
Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal if not detected. Fireplaces and gas heaters can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Install a carbon monoxide and smoke detector in your home. If you already have a carbon monoxide detector, check the batteries at least once a year. Change the batteries on a day you are likely to remember, such as your birthday. Or, write when the batteries need to be changed on next year’s calendar.
Watch your diet
It is important to maintain a nutritious diet throughout cold weather months. This can be difficult for older adults who cannot drive to the grocery store in winter weather. Family caregivers may sometimes struggle to get to seniors who need help cooking meals when the roads are snowy.
Home-delivered meal services like VANTAGE Meals on Wheels provides seniors with a nutritious, restaurant-style menu and wellness checks from trained drivers. In addition to outside services, recruit family, friends, and neighbors to ensure the seniors in your life are getting a well-balanced diet during cold weather months.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for good health and a strong immune system. Because of low sunlight during cold weather months, it can be hard to get a sufficient amount of Vitamin D. You can balance your diet with Vitamin D-rich foods such as fish, milk, yogurt, orange juice, and oatmeal.
Know the signs of hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature gets too low. This condition can be dangerous and should be avoided. Knowing the signs of hypothermia can help you catch it early and get to a warm place.
Here are some early signs of hypothermia:
- Cold feet and hands
- Swollen or puffy face
- Pale skin
- Being angry or confused
- Acting sleepy
If you think you or someone around you is showing signs of hypothermia, call 911. The condition needs to be treated quickly to avoid long-term complications.
Be smart about snow shoveling
Snow shoveling in cold weather months can be a dilemma. On one hand, it is a good idea to keep driveways and walkways clear of slippery snow and ice. On the other hand, shoveling snow can be a dangerous task for seniors.
If possible, get someone else to shovel snow for you. You might ask a relative or neighbor. Or, you might pay someone to shovel snow for you. Some snow removal services are free to seniors. Check with services available in your county.
If you decide to shovel your driveway, do so with extreme caution. Warm up your muscles beforehand by doing stretches. Pace yourself and take breaks when necessary. Stop if you feel out of breath or experience other physical symptoms.
Check your car
Driving can be dangerous for anyone during cold weather months. There are fewer hours of sunlight and slick, icy roads. For seniors who do not drive often or have experienced slower reflexes as they have aged, driving can be even more hazardous.
If you plan on driving, have your car serviced before cold weather hits. Check your car’s oil, battery, windshield wipers, and tire treads. During the winter, look at the weather and road conditions before leaving your house. Do not drive if conditions are hazardous.
Prepare for power outages
Cold weather months come with winter storms, which can lead to power outages. Be prepared for a winter power outage before it occurs.
Store flashlights and batteries in an easily accessible place. Keep a small supply of nonperishable food in case the power is out for a longer period of time. If the power is out too long, the food in your refrigerator and freezer could go bad.
Make sure you have a lot of warm blankets and clothing. You may need to stay with a family member, friend, or in a hotel for a few days if the power remains out because your home will become too cold.
As the weather changes, seniors can use a variety of resources in Summit County to stay healthy and safe. For example, the Dominion Agency Quick References Guide provides phone numbers for Dominion Energy Services. You can also see our Senior Resources page for links to organizations that help seniors.
Small supports such as home-delivered meals, chore services, telephone reassurance, and counseling can be especially helpful to seniors during cold weather months. Take a look at VANTAGE’s programs and services to see which are right for a senior in your life. Questions? Call 330-253-4597 for more information.
*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.