Prepare for winter weather with these safety tips.
As fall slowly transitions to winter, the time has come to bundle up in soft sweaters and brew up warm mugs of coffee and hot chocolate. Winter can be beautiful and cozy, but it can also be dangerous without the right precautions. Practicing good cold weather safety for seniors will help you enjoy the beauty and fun of the season without worrying about the winter woes.
These tips will help you practice cold weather safety for seniors:
- Wear well-insulating clothing
- Know the signs of hypothermia
- Be careful walking outdoors
- Keep your ears warm and cozy
- Make a power outage plan for warmth
Let’s dive into the specifics of these cold weather safety tips for seniors!
Wear well-insulating clothing
Whether you’re indoors or outside, you want your clothing to be able to trap and retain as much body heat as possible. Plenty of layers is the name of the game! Multiple layers of loose clothing are better than one thicker sweater because layers trap more heat. Think of a base thermal long-sleeve shirt, plus a sweater or flannel, plus a winter coat on top. At night, wear long underwear under your pajamas to stay warm while you sleep. The perk of layers is that you can adjust as needed as you move from warm to cold places and vice versa.
Know the signs of hypothermia
It’s helpful to know these both for yourself and if you notice any family or friends displaying symptoms, especially if they’re in a cold area or don’t seem appropriately dressed. The signs of hypothermia include:
- Looking pale
- Having cold hands and feet
- Feeling tired or confused
- Speaking slowly or slurring
- A puffy-looking face
- Shivering (sometimes, not always)
These signs typically indicate the earlier stages of hypothermia. If hypothermia progresses, it can impair movement, slow the person’s breathing and heartbeat, or even cause them to pass out. If you suspect someone has signs of hypothermia, call 911 immediately, move the person somewhere warmer if you can (not a bath), and wrap them in blankets. If you suspect hypothermia in yourself, let someone know and have them call 911.
Be careful walking outdoors
Falling is the leading cause of injury among seniors, and when you add wet, slippery conditions to the mix, it can be bad news. Consider hiring a professional or someone from your neighborhood to salt and shovel your walkways. Equip yourself with a sturdy pair of non-skid-soled boots to wear in the winter to help protect you against sneaky, hard-to-see patches of ice. If you use a cane, you can look into a “cleat” or “ice pick” tip attachment, which provides better traction in wintery weather.
Keep your ears warm and cozy
Often, people bundle up their entire body with coats, scarves, and gloves but forget to protect an essential part: the ears! Winter is one of the riskiest times for your ears – your blood circulation is slower in the cold, so ears need extra help to stay warm. Earmuffs and hats are a winter outfit necessity! Add earplugs to the mix if you anticipate being around loud winter noises like snowblowers. If you wear hearing aids, keep them dry and protected from the elements by investing in hearing aid sweatbands and drying kits or dehumidifiers to use overnight.
Make a power outage plan for warmth
Power outages can make seniors extra vulnerable by removing the primary heat source for the home. Instead of trying to bundle up and tough it out, the best solution is to head over to the house of a family member or friend with power and heat until yours is restored.