Extreme Cold- 9 Precautions for Seniors

February 26, 2014

Winter can be a very challenging time for elders both physically and mentally. Seniors with mobility issues struggle with the ice and snow, while elders who face emotional issues are challenged with isolation from friends and community.

Here are 9 ways to help keep aging loved ones safe and healthy during the winter months.
            Monitor the temperature in their home. For elders, there are significant risks of being too cold, which include dehydration. As well, people with cardiac issues tend to get colder faster. Make sure the home is properly insulated and windows are caulked to prevent drafts. Thermostats should be set to a comfortable temperature to prevent hypothermia and keep pipes from freezing.
            Keep an eye on their nutrition. Be sure your loved one is getting balanced meals that include vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. A nutritious diet becomes even more important during the winter when we are less active, at risk of catching colds and lacking vitamin D.
            Help your elder dress warmly for cold weather.  Seniors should get out for some fresh air as much as possible. To do this safely they should wear layered loose-fitting clothing and  gloves or mittens. Wearing a hat protects against heat loss, as close to half of body heat is lost through the head.
            Stock emergency resources in their homes. Seniors should have at least a week long supply of prescription medications, a supply of non-perishable food and water, and an emergency kit with flashlights, blankets etc. on hand.
            Check for potential fire risks. During cold weather fires often start from faulty space heaters, candles and electric blankets set too high for too long. Check smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and make sure that a fire extinguisher in good working order is handy.
            Identify potential areas or situations where falls might occur. The risk of falling goes up significantly during wider months. Wet boots, wet floors, icy sidewalks and many other things present potential hazards. Keep slippers near their door, put down slip proof mats, enlist the help of students to shovel walks…anything you can think of to prevent a fall.
            If your elder is still driving, review safety precautions. Make sure the car is equipped with blankets, sand, a flare and a snow scraper/brush. Keeps tabs on their trips and when they are supposed to arrive. 
            Make sure your elder has a cell phone. Beyond buying the cell phone you must make sure the phone is always charged, is easy to use and has pre--programmed numbers. There are special senior phones with larger numbers and other senior--friendly features.
            Ultimately, if you are really worried about your elder during the extreme weather conditions, you can hire a caregiver, until the weather improves. Whether for day care, for transportation or 24/7 care--having a companion for your elder is a reassuring solution. 

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