During the winter months, there are some obvious safety concerns that can affect almost anyone. Cold temperatures, increased illness, snow, ice and limited ability to get food and toiletries can leave a person feeling scared or frustrated. But specifically for our aging population, there are some real winter safety concerns that are easily overlooked because they aren’t as obvious. For this reason, it’s so important to know what they are so you can helping an aging loved one stay healthy and safe this winter season.
- Inability to Seek Medical Help
One of the biggest safety concerns in the winter for seniors that we don’t often think about is their ability to seek timely medical help, should they need it. In case of emergency, this can be a very dangerous situation. Winter road conditions can deter an aging loved one from driving themselves to the doctor’s office, causing them to put off seeking medical help for a cold, the flu or other injury. Even keeping up with regularly scheduled appointments can be difficult if winter weather gets in the way. To support your aging loved one be sure to arrange for reliable transportation to their medical appointments, especially in the winter.
Most people know how to avoid frostbite and can usually do so successfully by bundling up and listening to their body. However for people with heart disease and other circulation problems, this is a bigger challenge. They are at a higher risk for frostbite because circulation is poor and they may not feel the warning signs that their extremities are getting dangerously cold. If this applies to your aging loved one, be sure they have someone who checks on them frequently to ensure they are properly dressed, staying inside as much as possible and have proper heating in their home.
- Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
In the winter various heat sources in the home can pose a major risk, especially for senior adults. The first is fire. Equally as dangerous is carbon monoxide poisoning. Unlike a fire, carbon monoxide poisoning is nearly impossible to detect without a special detection device. Make sure your loved one has such a device and that it is working. Mostly importantly, make sure you know the warning signs. When visiting an aging loved one, look for signs of headache, weakness, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision and loss of consciousness.
- Lack of Access to Food and Water
All it takes is a couple of winter storms and possibly an injury or illness to prevent an aging adult from being able to make it to the grocery store or pharmacy for long periods of time. It’s likely they will run low on food, medicine and toiletries, unless they have someone who will step in to help. During the winter months, it’s so important to stay attentive to your aging loved ones to see if they need help restocking any of these essential items.
- Injuries While Shoveling Snow
Adult seniors who live independently might still carry the responsibility of shoveling their own driveway and sidewalk. While many other aspects of independent living may not be a cause for concern, shoveling requires a great deal of effort and also requires someone to be outside for extended periods of time. Additionally, if this chore isn’t done, the person residing in the house can’t easily leave to run errands or make it to medical appointments. Talk with your loved one early about their plans for who will shovel their driveway and sidewalk. Make arrangements with a neighbor or professional company who can commit to taking on this task for them for the duration of the winter season. This will give everyone some much needed peace of mind.
This winter, don’t let these senior safety concerns catch you off guard. Take the necessary steps today to protect your loved ones from accident or illness. Most importantly, check in on your senior friends and neighbors frequently to be sure they have everything they need to be comfortable this winter!