Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

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With the winter of 2013-2014 turning out to be one the coldest and wettest winters in recent memory, many people across the United States are just trying to survive.  Extreme weather conditions can be especially tough on seniors.  Read on to get simple and practical safety tips that will help you or your loved one weather this winter.

older-adults-fallingPreventing Falls

The number one concern for seniors is fall prevention.  Wintery conditions only increase the risk of suffering a catastrophic fall.  Here are some winter safety tips that will help you stay safe:

  • Wear appropriate footwear that is both warm and provides waterproof traction.
  • Plan ahead so that you can take your time and shorten your stride to make smaller, safer steps.
  • Keep your hands and arms free to increase balance.
  • Be sure to salt walkways and porch stairs.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Make sure that you have a neighbor, friend, or family member that you can call on to help clear snow and ice or to help you run errands.
poweroutagePrepare for Power Outages

While you may not have worried much about wintertime power outages in the past, the winter of 2013-14 may have made you all too familiar with this hazard.  Much of the country has been pummeled by storms that seem to hit right after the other.  Ice, snow, and high winds have caused wide spread outages in parts of the country.  Some people have gone up to a week without heat or power.  Low temperatures and power outages can be a deadly combination for seniors who are especially susceptible to the effects of cold weather.  Here  are some simple steps you can take to prepare for potential power outages:

  • Have flashlights with fresh batteries readily available.
  • Keep a stockpile of water and other non-perishable foods ready to in care of emergency.
  • If possible, invest in a backup generator.
carbonalarmBeware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning

Many people resort to unconventional methods to heat their home during power outages.  Hundreds of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning have been reported this winter alone because people have attempted to heat their home with grills or they placed a generator indoors without proper ventilation.  Do not use gas or charcoal grills or generators in your home.  In addition, make sure that you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.  Also, be on the lookout for the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Dizziness and drowsiness

If these symptoms are consistently ignored, they will continue to worsen, resulting in:  unconsciousness, coma, and eventual death.  It is important to pay attention to physical symptoms because carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas.  Without a detector to warn you of a build-up of gas, the only other sign of the gas is your body’s reaction.

Get a flu shot:

Not only has this winter been particularly cold and harsh, it has also brought with it a pretty intense flu season.  If you have yet to get a vaccine, it isn’t too late.  There is at least another solid month left in the flu season and with seniors being especially at risk for the flu, a vaccine may be the key to a health winter.

Fight Depression:

The senior demographic has one of the highest rates of depression.  Add to that the effects of season affective disorder, and you have a recipe for some truly blue winter months.  Improve your mood by:

  • vitamin dTaking vitamin D.  Lack of exposure to the sun can cause a vitamin D deficiency, which can greatly affect your overall mood.  If you can’t get outside to soak up some vitamins naturally, a simple supplement will also do the trick and give you an extra boost.
  • Investing in a sun lamp.  Many people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder also find that sun lamps offer significant relief.  Prices start at around $30, making these lamps an affordable solution that will help you get through the winter months.
  • Getting some exercise.  Short days and cold weather can sap your motivation to exercise, but getting moving can make all the difference.  If you have a hard time leaving the house, look into exercise DVDs or online videos that you can follow at home.
  • Avoiding isolation.  Again, cold temperatures and bad weather conditions can make it hard to leave home and visit with friends and family.  Consider giving them a call or using technology like Skype or facetime to keep in touch and make sure that you get some social interaction even If you are holed up in the house for a few days at a time.
Help others!

aarpFinally, you can help seniors to stay warm during the winter months by donating to organizations that help pay the high costs of heating during this extreme winter.  No senior should have to go without heat because they are having trouble making ends meet.  While there are many local and national organizations that you can work with, here is a link to the AARP Winter Emergency Relief Fund.  Your tax deductible donation can make a big difference.

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