Because of extremely cold temperatures, winter can be tough on everyone, especially the elderly. Wintertime is often a time of decreased activity and increased depression for seniors, and it can be hard looking after the elderly in cold weather if you are a caregiver. Whether you are a caretaker of someone who is older and needs assistance, or if you are a senior yourself, there are just a few important winter safety tips for seniors to keep in mind. Some tips—such as the ideal room temperature for the elderly—may be a bit surprising.
How Does Cold Weather Affect the Elderly?
As we age, our bodies react differently to extremes, and this includes dramatic changes in temperature. Blood circulation in the elderly is poorer than a younger adult any time of year, but the addition of colder weather worsens this condition. As humans, we always need adequate blood flow at all times to all of our extremities. Hypothermia is an additional concern. An elderly person who has their home temperature set to 65 degrees Fahrenheit may be at risk for hypothermia in extremely cold weather, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). This is particularly alarming if the person lives alone and rarely has visitors.
Because this type of situation is very dangerous, NIA suggests that a safe home temperature for the elderly is between of 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s understandable that this winter safety tip for seniors may cause some anxiety over the heating bill, but seniors can help keep their heating bill down by closing off rooms they are not using, closing curtains and windows and having them weather-treated, and placing a rolled towel in front of doors to keep out drafts.
Staying Healthy in the Winter for Seniors
Another health concern for seniors during the winter months is simply staying healthy. During this time when cases of the common cold, flu, and bronchitis are prevalent, winter safety precautions for seniors should include the prevention of any ailments. Because the elderly are an at-risk group, it is highly recommended that all older patients receive their flu shot every year. The flu can be deadly to all groups, but particularly so in seniors and those that are immunocompromised.
It’s also very important to wash your hands as often as possible. Simply put, having unclean hands is the easiest way to transmit germs. Those with deeper health concerns should also invest in a surgical mask to help protect against the transmission of airborne droplets and diseases. Vitamin deficiencies also are a problem during the winter. Another winter safety tip for seniors is to eat a varied diet full of leafy greens and vegetables, and foods rich in Vitamin D and calcium.
Other Winter Safety Tips for Seniors
Consider these additional winter safety tips for seniors:
- Avoid prolonged exposure outside. Frostbite and hypothermia are real concerns for seniors who have been outside too long, especially if not dressed properly. Bundle up and prepare well for going outside in extremely cold temperatures.
- Beat the winter blues. Winter depression is very real, and part of winter safety for seniors is keeping busy and staying active. Look for local winter events around your area that may be of interest, or think about joining a local senior support group.
- Be wary of ice. Whether you use a wheelchair ramp to get inside your home or you walk, falling on ice is a safety concern. Be sure to stock up ice melt for your walkways and sidewalks. Also, wear shoes that have non-slip grips on them, which are better for walking on icy surfaces.
- Drink only moderately. Alcohol consumption can make you lose body heat, while also making you feel as if you’re not cold. If you drink at all, make sure it is in moderation.
- Be well stocked. One of the most important winter safety tips for seniors is to have a well-stocked house for many reasons, including the risk of a power outage. Make sure you have candles and batteries, an easy way to contact a loved one if you need help, and a pantry full of canned goods and other non-perishable items.
For more ideas on winter safety tips for seniors, or to hear about products such as wheelchair ramps and stair lifts, contact Williams Lift Co. today to speak with a member of our team. With different types of mobility equipment, we can help make mobility a reality again.
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