As we’ve been seeing all too well these past few weeks, winter can be a dangerous season for even the ablest among us. But winter poses particular challenges for the elderly – especially with regard to extreme temperature and treacherous walking conditions. If you have an elderly family member or neighbor you’re concerned about, here’s what you need to watch out for, and how you can successfully prevent illness and injury during extreme weather conditions:
Falls: all the ice and snow this winter is making potential falls more likely – and one fall can be devastating to an elderly person whose bones are brittle, and for whom one fracture could mean months of painful recovery and rehab. Here’s your checklist to help avoid injury:
- Make sure all walkways they rely on are not just shoveled, but sanded/deiced. Don’t let mom or dad try and shovel themselves – there are lots of resources out there, including contacting a local church group; snow-removal service, or senior center.
- Proper footwear is critical; make sure mom or dad is wearing insulated, water-proof boots with non-skid soles like the ones pictured here.
Hypothermia and Frostbite: the extreme cold and wind we’re experiencing this winter are of particular concern to the elderly; they tend to produce less body heat than younger people, can have poor circulation, and can lose vital body heat very quickly. The safest option is to stay indoors, but if they must go out:
- First, know the warning signs of hypothermia and frostbite, which include excessive shivering; feeling tired, confused, or weak; and slowed breathing or heart rate; cold skin that is pale or ash-colored; skin that is hard, waxy, or numb
- Have mom wear layers; 3 thin layers of loose-fitting clothing are warmer than a single dense layer
- Keep dad’s clothing dry; wet clothing chills the body at a dangerous rate and can accelerate hypothermia
- Insist that they keep all exposed skin properly covered with a dry hat, gloves, and scarf tucked in to protect sensitive chins and necks
For more information on winter safety, or to hear more about how we protect our residents, feel free to give us a call!