Winter Tips for the Elderly

Hopefully we are nearing the end of the cold winter months! However, the icy, frigid weather continues to pose a potential danger for the elderly. The aftermath of the mid-February snow storm has reminded how important it is to keep the elderly safe during the winter. While COVID-19 has increased isolation for the older generation, it’s still vital to connect with trusted family or neighbors to call on during the winter. Activities like shoveling snow or sheltering during a power outage may be extremely dangerous for an elderly person to do alone. Making safety checklists, having emergency resources at the ready, and eliminating fall risks are great places to start when it comes to protecting seniors from winter hazards.

Prevent Hypothermia

Adults ages 75 and up are more susceptible to hypothermia because they have significantly less body fat and less efficient circulation. This makes it possible for them to contract hypothermia indoors and outdoors. To stay on top of this cold-related risk, check in to make sure your senior is able to pay their heating bills or set them up with financial assistance with Low Income Energy Assistance Program to help weatherize their home. Set the thermostat appropriately and make sure they are dressed warmly even inside the house.

Hydration

Important during the winter months. Seniors are especially prone to dehydration because they tend to eat and drink less than younger people, thus they consume less water. In general, people feel less thirsty during the winter and do not drink as much fluid as they should. Cold, dry air also contributes to moisture loss so make sure your elderly loved one is drinking liquids consistently.

Minimize fall risks

Preparing the home for ice and snow coverage. If your loved one is unsteady on their feet contact someone else to shovel, scrape, or salt walkways and driveways. Arrange for this assistance before storms hit. Warm, well-fitting, and non-slip shoes are also vital when it comes to walking in the winter as it’s still important for the elderly to reach some form of activity in the home or outside of the home.

Use space heaters with caution

While they can provide much-needed warmth during the winter, these sources of heat could become health hazards. If your senior uses a gas-powered heater or generator, make sure there is at least one carbon monoxide detector in the home with an active battery life. If they use electric heaters, inspect all power cords for fraying and get rid of any damaged devices.

Safety Checklists

If you’re an elder wintering at home, be sure you have a checklist that prepares you for a winter storm. Containing your items in an easy-to-get-to spot will make it easier if you are experiencing a power outage or trying to capture heat in one area of the house to stay warm.

  • A fully-stocked first aid kit
  • List of trusted neighbors or family members to call
  • Canned goods or food items you can easily prepare
  • Bottled water
  • A back-up supply of medications
  • Flashlights (with extra batteries)
  • A battery-operated radio
  • Extra blankets
  • A loud whistle or bell

    Power Outages

    Another danger a snow storm presents is power outages. Here are some quick tips to make sure you and your household are maximizing the power and heat in your home. If you are experiencing symptoms of hypothermia seek help from a trusted neighbor you can shelter with or call 911 if your symptoms worsen.

    • To prevent accidental fires, use flashlights instead of candles for lighting.
    • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed to preserve the food inside. Most food will remain cold for 4 hours in a refrigerator and for 48 hours in a freezer.
    • Dress warmly inside and outside. Wearing a hat indoors will help keep you warm in a power outage.
    • Minimize fire risks and do not burn charcoal indoors for heat or cooking purposes.
    • Don’t be afraid to leave your home. If the storm gets really bad, stay at a loved one or friend’s home. It’s best to make these arrangements before a storm hits.

    Emotional Risks of Winter

    There are physical risks to the winter months as well as emotional risks. Your loved one may be experiencing loneliness, as COVID-19 has made it difficult to travel or spend time with family and friends. While it is crucial to pay attention to fall hazards and cold weather risks this time of year, it is just as important to take care of your mental well being. Try walking around your living space or winter gardening to wait out the last of the cold weather and keep your mind and body active.

    How We Can Help

    Psych360 provides comprehensive mental health solutions for long-term care communities. We deliver a hybrid of both on-site and telehealth psychiatric and psychological services for your residents. Connect with us at psych360.org or give us a call at (330) 536-3746 for more information.

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