Aging makes us more vulnerable to many things, especially in the winter. Cold temperatures bring challenges to seniors, here are 4 common hazards and how to avoid them.
|Common Safety Hazards||Winter Safety Tips|
|Hypothermia||Set the indoor temperature to 65 degrees or warmer and avoid going out on colder days.|
|Frostbite||Keep yourself covered when going out. Wear boots with non-skid soles.|
|Fire & Carbon Monoxide Poisoning||Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.|
|Falls||Use non-skid mobility aids such as rubber tip canes.|
Senior citizens can lose body heat much faster than younger adults and are often unaware of lost body heat, which can be very dangerous. Hypothermia, or a body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, can cause health problems that include:
If your house is cold, you can suffer from hypothermia as well. If a loved one resides in an extended care facility, it is important to note the temperature of their room. If it feels cold, it is important that they dress warmly. Spending an extended period outside increases the risk of hypothermia.
Frostbite damages the skin when exposed to extreme cold. It affects the areas farthest from the heart where blood flow or circulation is slower such as fingers, toes, ears, and nose, and can lead to the loss of limbs.;
Another hazard for seniors to consider is fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a gas that has no smell. During cold winters, many seek alternative ways to heat their homes, which may be less expensive. Common heating sources include:
These appliances should be maintained, vented properly, and cleaned regularly. They should be kept away from furniture, curtains, and other flammables.
Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
If you have these symptoms, go out into the fresh air and seek medical care.
To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, here are some tips:
Winter weather can pose a real hazard to seniors. Falls are dangerous any time of the year, but the risk increases due to inclement weather and ice. Seniors are fragile, and any trouble with balance or thinning bones can turn a fall into a major injury or health risk.
Tips to reduce the risk of a fall include:
Lastly, shoveling snow can strain your heart if you have heart disease. In cold weather, the heart works harder to keep you warm. Add the shoveling strain, and your heart incident risk increases greatly. It is best to hire someone to manage snow removal for you.
Keeping our seniors safe in winter should be a high priority. If you have an elderly neighbor, consider clearing their walkway for them. Offer to pick something up at the store while you’re out. Be kind and help them out.
Author Profile: Christine Kijek, Registered Colorectal Nurse
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