Winter time can be one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. It’s a season filled with family, baking, snow covered trees (if we’re lucky), cozy nights by the fire, and hot cocoa for dessert. But for seniors who are living at home, winter can pose some serious threats. It’s important to prepare yourself and your home for the cold months ahead so you can enjoy the holidays stress free. Your loved ones can help you prepare by following these tips!
Due to poor circulation and lower metabolic rates, seniors are particularly at risk for hypothermia. Make sure your loved ones wear lots of loose-fitting, light-weight layers. A hat, gloves, and a scarf are all a must for a venture outside. Remember, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in less than 30 minutes! Winter shoes and boots should have non-skid soles to prevent slipping on wet leaves, ice patches, or snow. If your loved one uses a cane and likes to go for walks outside, replace the rubber end every winter as it is probably worn down. There are ice pick-like attachments available for the end of a cane which can be very useful as the sidewalk or road may be slippery.
Make sure your loved ones vehicle is ready the winter season. They should keep an emergency kit in their vehicle at all times which includes things like a flashlight, first aid kit, jumper cables, shovel, ice scraper, blanket, and kitty litter (for stuck wheels). It is also a good idea to bring a cell phone so they can get a hold of emergency services or loved ones if something happens on the road. Finally, remind them to check that their BCAA membership is up to date, because you never know when you’re going to need road side assistance!
Seniors are most at risk for experiencing a slip or fall during the winter that have serious consequences for their well-being. If seniors are heading out to their car or checking the mail they will most likely walk on a driveway, so ensure their driveway is salted and clear of any wet leaves, ice, or snow. A solution for those dark mornings and evenings can be an sensor light that lights up their driveway and front yard so your loved one can see clearly when they leave or arrive home.
We all know that seniors like to keep their homes warm and cozy during the winter, but this also comes with safety precautions. Encourage your loved ones to never leave a space heater unattended and shut it off before going to bed. Also ensure that any heat source in their home is clear of clutter and there is a fire extinguisher near by in case of an emergency.
In Victoria, our winters may not include snow, but powerful rain and wind storms are common place which can cause power outages. Your loved one should have an emergency kit in their home consisting of things such as a flashlight, water bottles, canned foods, blankets, warm clothes, batteries, and a radio. Power outages can last one night for someone living in the city but for may last days for seniors living outside of the city, so it is best to be prepared for the worst.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) coming from a fireplace, wood or gas stove, or any gas appliance is odourless and toxic. It can start to affect bodily functioning well before you’re aware of its presence, and seniors are particularly at risk because their breathing is shallower and faster. Even in low doses it is dangerous to your loved ones health! Warning sings of CO poisoning include: headache, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, blurry vision, and fatigue.
There are some precautions you can encourage your loved ones to take to minimize the risk of CO poisoning. Such as hiring someone to come and check their ventilation and combustion appliances and install a carbon monoxide detector. It is also a good idea to have their chimney and furnace checked before the winter season. If your loved one is still driving, remind them to clear the snow off of their car before starting the vehicle and NEVER leave the engine running inside of a garage!
Stay safe out there this winter!