It’s a fact that older adults have more issues with cold, snowy wintertime weather than others. Here are some tips to help keep you or a loved one a little safer during the winter months.
Hypothermia. Seniors tend to produce less body heat than younger people do. It is also harder for seniors to tell when the temperature is too low. So always be aware of the warning signs of hypothermia: cold skin that is pale or ashy; shivering; feeling weak and tired; problems walking; and slowed breathing or heart rate. Note that shivering alone is not an ideal warning sign as older people tend to shiver less as their body temperature drops.
Shoveling snow. People 65 and older need to be especially careful shoveling snow. When it’s cold, your heart has to work harder to keep you warm. This can put too much stress on your heart, especially if you have other cardiac issues. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor to see if you are healthy enough to shovel snow.
Frostbite. Extreme cold can cause frostbite, or freezing of the skin. People with heart disease and other circulation problems need to be particularly aware of frostbite. The most common spots for frostbite are the nose, cheeks, ears, chin, toes and fingers. Frostbite can occur very quickly on cold, windy days. Be sure to cover all parts of your body to protect yourself on very cold days. If your skin starts hurting or changes color, go inside to warm up right away.
Slips and falls. Accidents can happen to anyone, but seniors with poor balance are more likely to suffer a fall in icy and snowy conditions. Wearing boots with non-skid soles can help you stay safer. If you use a cane, remember to replace the rubber tip before it has worn smooth. The start of winter is the perfect time to do this.
Portable heaters. Make sure space heaters are only used when you are in the room and kept at least three feet from curtains, bedding and furniture. If there is a power outage, never try to hear your home using a gas range, charcoal grill, or other appliance not made for home heating, this can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.