With winter’s cold chill rearing its ugly head, there’s no more vulnerable population than our seniors. And it’s not just the cold that presents a risk. The ice, snow and flu wreak havoc by causing falls, isolation and sickness during the winter months.
Here are a few suggestions that will help you and your loved ones get through the winter safely and securely.
- Annual flu shot. Seniors represent the vast majority of hospitalizations related to the flu. Complications from pneumonia are particularly prevalent for seniors who contract seasonal flu. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot as the most important and effective treatment to mitigate the risks of contracting influenza. Some states, provinces and doctors recommend higher dosage vaccines for seniors. Discuss what’s best for you with your doctor.
- Get Shoes and Boots with Non-Slip Soles. Slipping on ice is one of the biggest risks in the winter time. While you can certainly wear ice “cleats” or crampons on top of your existing boots to give you added grip, there is now a new technology you might want to explore. Vibram Arctic Grip soles come with non-slip specs designed into the sole of the shoe. Several companies now use them including Merrell, L.L. Bean, Sperry, Saucony, Hush Puppies, CAT and Wolverine.
- Don’t Drive in Snowy Conditions. As we age, our reaction time, vision and processing speeds decline. Driving in inclement winter weather requires us to assess and react quickly to changing driving conditions as we skid and slip in low visibility conditions. Seniors are best to wait until the skies clear up and streets are cleaned and salted.
- Don’t Go Out in Extreme Conditions. When it’s snowing, freezing rain or icy wait until the storm passes and the sidewalks and roads have been cleaned, salted or sanded. In the meantime, if you need food, medications or everyday items get them in advance of the storm or have them delivered.
- Keep Flashlights Within Easy Reach. Extreme weather conditions often cause power outages. Keep a flashlight within easy reach in each room. Make them easy to find in the dark. Do not use candles, as they can easily cause a fire if you trip or fall in poor visibility conditions.
- Stay in Touch. Make sure you have the ability to call for help if needed and have people check up on you, in emergency situations. If you know a storm is coming, make sure your cell phone is charged, landline phones are working and you’re wearing your life alert help button if you have one.
- Maintain and Service Heating Systems Annually. When furnaces break down it’s usually during extreme cold conditions. Get your furnace, gas fireplaces and wood stoves serviced and cleaned every year. Not only will this ensure your heating is on when you need it most, it will reduce the chances of accidental fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Alarms. Make sure you have a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm in each room. Change out batteries annually. If you or a loved one don’t hear well, attach your alarms to a flashing strobe light, so you can be notified visually of an emergency situation.
Winter is filled with risks no matter your age. Driving is more difficult, walking more hazardous and keeping warm is fraught with challenges. However, the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to deal with the inevitability of winter’s cold hand. So get your heating appliances serviced in the fall, get vaccinated before the winter flu makes its rounds, and don’t take any unnecessary risks!