When the temperature drops, older adults run a higher risk of health problems and injuries related to the weather and it’s important that they, and those who care for them, take certain precautions at this time of year. Here’s a good look at things that will prevent the unthinkable, according to healthinaging.org.
Fire and carbon monoxide poisoning Burning wood, natural gas, kerosene and other fuels produce a deadly gas you can see, smell, touch or feel. Make sure to call an inspector if you think these deadly gasses could be a problem. Be sure that smoke detectors are in good working order and always exercise caution with space heaters. Other helpful tips include keeping a reliable, functioning fire extinguisher and never trying to heat your home using a gas stove.
Fall hazards With accumulations of snow, sometimes wet snow, ice may be the most damaging element in the winter, making simple activities like walking outside of your house potentially treacherous. Make sure to shovel steps and sidewalks carefully, wear boots with non-skid soles and use caution if you need a cane. You might also buy an ice-pick-like attachment that fits onto the end of the cane to help keep you from slipping when you walk. For more information, check out Bright Star Care’s “Focus on Falls” program.
Staying warm and avoiding hypothermia Extended exposure to extreme cold can lead to severe injury or even death. Older adults tend to produce less body heat than younger people, and it’s harder for them to tell when the temperature is too low. The result can be hypothermia, or a dangerous drop in body temperature. Warning signs of hypothermia include shivering, cold skin that’s pale or ashy or feeling tired, weak or confused. Be sure to service your furnace or boiler and that of elderly loved ones and neighbors to prevent any issues when the weather turns frigid.
Accidents while driving Elderly adults are involved in more car accidents per mile than any other demographic, or age group, including newly-licensed teens. The unpredictable, sometimes hidden barriers on roadways and even sidewalks only increase chances of an accident. You can have your car “winterized,” including antifreeze and heating and cooling inspection. Also, you must bring a cell phone when traveling and don’t travel on icy roads. Basic emergency supplies like a first aid kit, blankets, extra warm clothes, booster cables, a windshield scraper, shovel, rock salt, water, canned or dried foods and flashlight ensure preparedness and increase chances of survival should something extraordinary occur.
Safety while shoveling When it’s cold, your heart works extra hard to keep you warm. Working hard, such as shoveling show, may put too much strain on your heart, especially if you have heart disease. Shoveling can also be dangerous if you have problems with balance, or “thin bones.” (osteoporosis). Please ask your doctor or health care provider if it’s safe enough to shovel, lift heavy objects or do other strenuous activities in the snow.