Wintertime is a beautiful time of year with picturesque snowfalls, hot cocoa and winter activities. However, the winter months can also bring with it a whole host of challenges. Ice, snow and cold temperatures can make life challenging for anyone. Cold weather and slippery sidewalks can cause a wide range of illness and injury —especially for seniors.
Here are some tips to help keep you safe this winter:
Avoid Slipping on Ice
Icy, snowy roads and sidewalks make it easy to slip and fall. Unfortunately, falls are a common occurrence for senior citizens, especially during the winter months.
Make sure to wear shoes or boots with good traction and non-skid soles. When possible stay inside until the roads and sidewalks are clear. Be sure to replace a worn cane tip to avoid slipping. Always take your shoes or boots off as soon as you return indoors because melted snow can make floors wet and slippery.
Dress for Warmth
Cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia —a condition where the body temperature dips too low. Going outside? Dress in layers, and wear warm socks, a heavy coat, a warm hat, gloves and a scarf. In very cold temperatures, cover all exposed skin. Using a scarf to cover your mouth will help protect your lungs.
Fight Wintertime Depression
Because it can be difficult and dangerous to get around, many seniors have less contact with others during cold months. This can cause feelings of loneliness and isolation. Stay in touch with your family and friends, daily phone calls can brighten your mood. Arrange a check-in system with neighbors and friends, where each person looks in on one or two others daily.
Caregivers and family check in on your senior loved ones as often as possible; a short, daily phone call can also make a big difference.
Contact CANES Community Care we can help with our Friendly Visiting Services
Prepare for Power Outages
Winter storms can lead to power outages. Make sure you have easy access to flashlights and a battery-powered radio in case the power goes out. Keep a supply of warm blankets on hand just in case. Longer power outages can spoil the food in your refrigerator and freezer so keep a supply of non-perishable foods that can be eaten cold if needed. If the power goes out, wear several layers of clothing, including a hat. Move around a lot to raise your body temperature. Be sure to reach out to family, friends or neighbours to let them know you are alright or if you need help.
Eat a Varied Diet
Because people spend more time indoors and may eat a smaller variety of foods, nutritional deficits —especially Vitamin D deficiency, can be a problem. Eating foods that are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, grains and seafood, such as tuna and salmon or taking a vitamin D supplement is recommended.
Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Using a fireplace, gas heater b furnace or lanterns can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Ensure your safety by checking the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector and purchasing an updated one if needed.
Warning Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
If you think you may have carbon monoxide poisoning, get into fresh air and call 911 immediately.
Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops to a dangerous level. Your body temperature can drop when you are out in the cold for an extended time because it begins to lose heat quickly. Older adults lose the ability to regulate body temperature and are at an increased risk of hypothermia. Stay indoors when possible during very cold weather if you have to go out don’t stay outside for very long. Always keep indoor temperature at 18.5 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit) or warmer. Stay dry as wet clothing chills your body more quickly. Dress Smart – protect your lungs from cold air. Dress in layers, wearing 2 or 3 thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing is warmer than a single layer of thick clothing.
Warning Signs of Hypothermia
- Cold skin that is pale or ashy
- Feeling very tired
- Feeling confused and sleepy
- Feeling weak
- Problems walking
- Slowed breathing or heart rate.
Call 911 if you think you or someone else has hypothermia.
Frostbite occurs when your body experiences damage to the skin that can go all the way down to the bone. Not surprisingly, extreme cold can cause frostbite. It is most likely to occur on body parts farthest away from your heart — nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes. The elderly and people with heart disease and other circulation problems are at a higher risk.
Cover Up! All parts of your body should be covered when you go out in the cold. If your skin turns red or dark or starts hurting, go inside right away.
Warning Signs of frostbite
- Skin that’s white or ashy or grayish-yellow
- Skin that feels hard or waxy
If you think you or someone else has frostbite, call for medical help immediately.
The most important tip to keep in mind during the colder months is to ask for help. If you need to clear your property of snow and ice, don't hesitate to ask a family member or neighbour, or hire a professional. Arrange rides to the grocery store and doctor's appointments-many communities have shuttle services specifically for seniors. Don't be afraid to reach out for help.
Contact CANES Community Care we have many services to help you be safe this winter. We’re here and happy to help! CANES Cares!
Wintertime certainly poses challenges for seniors, but with a bit of planning and awareness, you will stay healthy and experience the joys of springtime soon enough.