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10 Winter Safety Tips for Seniors
Many seniors and their loved ones enjoy the cold weather and the snow it brings. The winter is the best time to enjoy hot cocoa, white wonderlands, and holiday decorations.
There are precautions that every senior should take to keep themselves safe throughout the winter. Here are 10 winter safety tips for seniors that can help keep your older loved ones safe and healthy this year.
Vaccinate Against the Flu
According to the CDC, older adults over the age of 65 are at an increased risk for developing serious flu complications. In fact, 70-80% of flu-related deaths occur in those who are over 65.1
The reason seniors are more susceptible to the flu is because as the body ages, immunity against the flu begins to wane. Encouraging your older loved one to get the flu shot can protect them from the flu and help their body fight off a potential serious illness.
It’s recommended by the CDC to get the flu shot in the fall, however, if your loved one hasn’t gotten a flu shot yet, consider taking them to get one. It is estimated that flu shots have helped prevent over 7 million flu illnesses, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6,300 flu-related deaths.2
Prevent Falls on Snow and Ice
Seniors are susceptible to falls, and it is estimated that over 36,000 million older adults fall each year. Of these falls, 1 in 5 will result in an injury such as a broken bone.3
With the possibility of snow and ice on the ground, your senior loved one is more likely to fall on the ground. It is an important senior winter safety to protect them from falls.
Some ways to help protect them include:
- Regularly clearing sidewalks and driveways of snow and ice
- Give your senior loved one non-slip boots
- Advise your loved one to push snow rather than lift it
- If applicable, consider adding an ice pick attachment to your loved one’s cane
- Give your loved one sand to throw on the ground for better traction
Dress for Colder Weather
There are many illnesses that come along with the winter season, including hypothermia, frostbite, and colds. It’s an important senior winter safety tip to protect themselves from these illnesses by equipping them with the proper winter attire.
Check your loved one’s closet and make sure they are up-to-date on winter attire. If any articles of clothing have holes or are worn out, replace these items with brand new clothes to help keep your loved one warm.
Your senior loved should these items in their winter closet:
- Warm hats, gloves, and scarves
- Winter socks
- Non-slip winter boots
- A heavy coat
- Long pants that completely cover the skin
Warm clothes can help shield your loved one from the colder weather, especially if temperatures drop in your area.
Prepare the Car
Seniors are especially at risk when they drive because their vision and hearing may not be as strong as it once was. Seniors should be careful whenever they drive, especially when there is snow and ice on the ground.
Some ways your senior loved one can stay safe this winter is by preparing their car for the colder weather. They should get their oil changed, tires checked, and ensure their windshield wipers are working properly. Their car should also be equipped with an ice scrapper as well as blankets in case of an emergency where they get stopped and need to stay warm.
Seniors should avoid driving in inclement weather conditions whenever possible. It’s also best to go out during daylight, and encourage them to avoid driving when it is actively snowing because snow can impair their vision.
Prepare for Power Outages
In the winter time, sometimes a big storm can cause a power outage that can last for most of the day. It’s important for you and your senior loved one to be prepared in case there is a power outage in your home.
Some supplies that your senior loved one should have during a power outage includes:
- Blankets. Having enough blankets can ensure your senior loved one can stay warm when the power goes out. This is a great senior winter safety tip that can help prepare your loved one in case the house loses heat.
- Flashlights. Flashlights can help your loved one see in the dark, especially if there is no light coming through the windows during the nighttime.
- Food. Non-perishable foods such as soups should all be kept in the pantry in case of an emergency. Ideally, these foods should be able to be eaten without heat.
- Warm clothes. If there isn’t any heat to help keep your loved one warm, they should have warm clothes on hand that they can wear to protect themselves from the cold.
- Matches and firewood. If your senior loved one’s home has a fireplace, keeping firewood and matches on hand can be another way to help them stay warm when the power goes out.
Protect Against Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If your senior loved one uses a fireplace, wood stove, or gas stove, there are invisible carbon monoxide fumes that can’t be seen or smelled. This can make these devices dangerous if they are left unchecked, especially since they may potentially cause fires.
Some ways to help protect your loved one from fires and carbon monoxide poisoning in their home include:
- Have the fireplace, wood stove, and gas stove checked yearly by an inspector
- Keep smoke and carbon monoxide detectors up-to-date
- Keep devices at least 3 feet away from anything flammable such as furniture and bedding
- Have a fire extinguisher on-hand in the house in case of an emergency
Be Mindful of Decorations
If you and your loved one enjoy decorating the home for the holidays, staying mindful of those decorations is one way to help keep a senior loved one safe.
For example, if there are any dangerous decorations that might break or topple over, consider tossing those items or find a way to place them in a sturdy fashion to keep your senior loved one safe.
Another best practice is to make sure chords for decorations don’t run under your loved one’s rugs or furniture. They should be out of the way to prevent someone from tripping on them. The chords also should be plugged into the outlets properly, and outlets shouldn’t be overfilled with more chords than they can handle.
Prepare the Home
Another senior winter safety tip is to make sure that their home is prepared. Keeping an up-to-date home can protect the house from snow and ice related damages that may occur in the winter months.
Have all cracks and leaks within the home fixed to ensure that your loved one’s house is safe from weather-related damage. This includes making sure all windows and doors are properly sealed to insulate the home.
Another best practice is to make sure the outside of the home is prepared for the colder weather. Make sure all rain gutters are cleared and any dangerous trees or branches removed. It’s also important to make sure all summer furniture is stored away to prevent them from being damaged or growing mold from wet snow.
In the time winter, the body has a 40% reduced thirst response because the blood vessels constrict. This helps the body conserve heat as it will naturally draw more blood to its core, however, it tricks the brain into thinking the body is hydrated.4
It’s important for your senior loved one to drink enough of fluids to ensure that they stay healthy all winter long. Some ways to stay hydrated include:5
- Eating foods such as fruits and vegetables with high water content
- Drink water during the day, especially after exercising
- Avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee or tea, which promote water loss
- Track daily intake of water to meet daily goals
Keep a First Aid Kid
The winter time comes with the potential for winter illnesses or scrapes that could need first aid attention. It’s an important winter safety tip for seniors to keep a first aid kit on hand in case they or a loved one needs medical attention from the colder weather.
Keeping band aids, dressings, towels, antiseptic wipes, and other first aid materials up-to-date. Discard any materials that are expired or unusable. The first aid kit should also be organized neatly so that way your senior loved one can find what they need quickly.
It’s also a good idea to keep index cards with the steps on how to treat hypothermia and frostbite in case someone needs first aid immediately. These cards should be easy to follow and contain clear steps on what to do if someone experiences one of these winter-related illnesses.
Saber Healthcare Wishes Everyone a Safe Winter
Here at Saber Healthcare, we’re excited for the colder weather and the holiday season that comes along with it. Our residents enjoy seeing the beautiful snow outside as well as the activities that are offered during this time of year.
To learn more about Saber Healthcare and the services we provide, click here.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Flu & People 65 Years and Older.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. 26 August 2021. Accessed 15 December 2021. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm
- “It’s a Good Time to Get Your Flu Vaccine.” S. Food & Drug Administration. 21 October 2021. Accessed 15 December 2021. Link: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/its-good-time-get-your-flu-vaccine
- “Falls Prevention: How to Reduce Senior Fall Risk.” Saber Healthcare Group. 22 September 2021. Accessed 15 December 2021. Link: https://www.saberhealth.com/news/blog/how-to-prevent-falls-in-seniors
- “Winter Hydration: Can You Get Dehydrated in Cold Weather?” Drip Drop Hydration Inc. Accessed 15 December 2021. Link: https://www.dripdrop.com/blog/cold-weather/winter-hydration-can-you-get-dehydrated-in-cold-weather
- “How Hydration Affects Your Health.” Saber Healthcare Group. 17 April 2021. Accessed 15 December 2021. Link: https://www.saberhealth.com/news/blog/how-hydration-affects-healt