The winter months can be a welcome sight for many people who love the snowy landscapes of frosty trees and winter activities, but winter can also make life limiting and dangerous for older individuals. With winter comes slippery ice, drifting snow, and cold temperatures, which can keep some seniors housebound and feeling isolated. Staying safe and healthy during the winter months is crucial and can contribute to an elder’s wellbeing the rest of the year.
Get a Flu Shot
The flu is notorious for arriving in the winter time. While flu shots are encouraged for anyone of any age, seniors over the age of 65 should always opt for a flu vaccine as it can be a lifesaver. Older individuals, who contract the flu, are more likely to have complications that can have life threatening results. One of the best ways to stay safe during the winter time is by staying healthy.
Winterize Your Home
Keeping your home warm in the winter can be a challenge, but some simple winterizing steps can cut down on heating bills and the risk of having complications related to the cold, such as hypothermia. Elderly individuals are more susceptible to hypothermia because they aren’t able to produce the same amount of body heat as younger individuals. The best way to prevent life threatening hypothermic conditions is to keep the indoor temperature at least 65 degrees (F).
Setting your thermostat high can be expensive, particularly if your house is old and drafty. If your income is limited, see if you qualify for financial energy assistance; these programs can help you winterize your home by putting up weatherstripping and insulation. When trying to keep your home warm, never use your oven to heat your home. It’s also important that you have working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in your home.
Have a Plan B
Many elders live independently without any problems, however, winter weather can make it hard to get out of the house or around for basic errands such as a trip to the pharmacy or groceries. If the weather gets too cold or treacherous, it’s important for many seniors to have a backup plan. If you are an independent elder, know your limits when it comes to cold weather. If your house becomes too cold, make arrangements to stay with friends or family. When the road conditions become too dangerous for you to travel comfortably, make arrangements to have someone deliver groceries and other basic needs (many places offer delivery services). Additionally, make plans with a friend or loved one to check in daily, either by phone or in person. A simple slip and fall or another household accident can put your health in danger.
Go Outside with Caution
During the winter months, everyone gets a bit of cabin fever and it’s always a good idea to step outside and get some fresh air. If you feel as if you are mobile enough to go outside, make sure that your clothing is warm enough and you are wearing boots with good tread. If you notice ice dams or excess snow on your roof, do not attempt to remove them yourself. Additionally, consider hiring someone to shovel and de-ice your sidewalks. Listen to the news, if the weather reporter says to stay indoors, stay indoors.