Winter time can be an especially dangerous time for aging seniors, especially those who live in cold weather climates. As I’m writing this today, we are in the midst of a blizzard. We’ve had particularly harsh winter conditions this year, starting about a week before Christmas. Here it is January 6th and the snow and ice continue to accumulate, and will probably continue during the next month or so.
Because of these conditions, I thought it might be a good time to review how seniors can stay safe during this time of year. Here are five main topic areas to help you and your loved one plan for the inevitable snow or ice storm.
Avoid Slipping on Ice. One of the most dangerous conditions to seniors is the ice buildup on sidewalks and steps around their house or town. Many seniors don’t drive, but can walk to their local grocery story or pharmacy. Unfortunately, that is not a good idea when sidewalks are slippery. A major problem is the so called “black ice” that many of us can’t see, but slip on.
If we do, the fall can cause major injuries such as a fractured hip, wrist, or arm; possible head injuries, or back or knee injuries. To prevent this type of fall:
- Make sure sidewalks and steps are clear
- Use sea salt to make sure steps are non-slip
- Wear shoes or boots with good traction
- Wear non-skid shoes
- Stay inside until sidewalks and roads are cleared
Be Careful Driving. Many seniors only drive once in a while, to the grocery store or the doctor’s office. They are not part of the daily work commute and can get out of practice. If the weather is bad, they should let someone else drive – especially if they haven’t driven in a while. Here are a couple more tips:
- Make sure your car is winter-ready,
- The best time to get a tune-up and the car winterized is in the Fall
- Keep an emergency travel kit in your car
- Keep a flare or two in the car, and make sure you know how to use it
- Keep an extra blanket in the car during the winter
- Keep your tank full of gas
- Let someone know you are out there driving
- If your car gets stuck, stay with it
- Use the heater to stay warm – run the car for about 10 minutes or so every hour
- Crack open the window for fresh air
Dress Warm Enough for the Weather Conditions. Seniors have less body heat than the younger set and need to cover up to stay safe and healthy.
- Wear layered clothes.
- Wear warm socks, hat, gloves and scarf
- Wear heavy winter coat
- Protect against hypothermia
- Protect against frost bite
- Place scarf over mouth to protect lungs
Prepare for a Power Outage. We have experienced numerous power outages over the years, especially living in Michigan where the weather can be brutal at times. If your power goes out, have a plan ready so that neighbors and family members know what to do to keep you safe. Here are some pointers on how you can be prepared if your electricity goes out.
- Flashlights – know where they are, keep batteries up to date, and know where extra batteries are stored.
- Get a battery-powered radio
- Keep warm blankets handy
- Keep in touch with family members or close friends who live nearby
- Have an emergency plan developed between you and your family – what to do in case of…
- Keep bottled water in the home to stay hydrated
Know When to Ask for Help. And, know who you can ask for help. Do you have neighbors that help you out in time of trouble? Do any family members live nearby? Don’t feel like you can’t bother them because they are busy. Your health is important. Give them a call to help you out. If they are unable to at the moment, they can probably find someone who can. Here are some things others can help you with:
- Ask for help to clear off sidewalks and driveways
- Grocery shopping
- Doctor’s visits
- Get a ride when in doubt about driving in bad weather, or even in any type of winter weather
If you are planning on traveling during the winter, here are some Safety Tips for Seniors Who Travel that might interest you when you are ready to go south. The bottom line is for you to stay warm and safe in inclement weather. Being prepared ahead of time with help you stay safe throughout the cold winter season.