Winter months can be challenging with unpredictable weather conditions for older adults and can increase the risk of health-related problems and injuries. Taking extra precautions and preventative care to be safe is especially important for those who are more vulnerable. By preparing ahead of time for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions, the risk of weather-related problems will be reduced. Here are some safety tips to follow:
Dressing for inclement weather is an important factor. Not wearing proper clothing when going outside in sub-freezing temperature can potentially lead to hypothermia, which is a dangerous condition when a person has prolonged exposures to cold temperatures. Older adults are particularly susceptible to feeling the cold due to lower metabolism, thinning of the skin, muscles and bones, and other health conditions. Wear layered or thermal clothing with exterior winter coat, gloves, hat, warm pants and boots are suggestions to help keep exposure to the cold to a minimum.
Before venturing out, be sure to have sturdy footwear to prevent slips and falls. Make sure walkways are clear of snow and have been treated with salt or sand in order to avoid slippery conditions. Older adults who are unsteady on their feet should seek assistance from someone who can help them, or use assistive devices, such as a cane, railings, walkers, etc. Injuries due to a fall are traumatic and can often require extensive recovery time and possibly hospitalization.
Before picking up a shovel, check with your healthcare provider to see if shoveling and removing snow is safe. Strenuous activities, such as shoveling, can put additional strain on the heart, lungs and other body parts. Twisting and turning with the shovel can also put strain on the back, arm and leg muscles and create imbalance. The increased cardiovascular strain can cause respiratory distress, light-headedness, and heart conditions. If this happens, the activity should be discontinued and seek assistance.
Setting limitations and asking for help is the best way to get through the challenging winter weather.
Be happy, healthy and safe this winter!