Your Winter Safety Checklist

‘Tis the season for flus, slips on icy streets, and other dangers that can be especially traumatic for older adults. A simple fall can have devastating effects. A minor cold can escalate into a bronchial episode (make sure to get flu and pneumonia inoculations annually). And older adults are more susceptible to adverse reactions to cold temperatures than younger counterparts. To stay healthy this winter:

  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Drink at least four or five glasses of water every day. Water intake shouldn’t decrease just because it’s winter.
  • Make sure indoor temperatures are not too low. When using a portable heater exercise caution. Unattended heaters can be a fire hazard.
  • Check lighting. Make sure there are no great contrasts from one room to another. As we age it becomes more difficult for our eyes to adjust to changes in light, so high contrasts increase the risk of slips and falls.  Use night lights.
  • Avoid trips.  Pick up loose extension cords. Make sure rugs are not wrinkled or torn in a way that may cause someone to trip. Use padding or special tape underneath to prevent them from sliding.
  • In the bathroom use mats inside and outside the tub to prevent slipping on wet surfaces. If warranted, install grab bars inside the tub. Regulate water temperature.
  • Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working.
  • Program the phone with emergency numbers and make sure it’s always charged. Consider use of a personal emergency response system – a device worn around the neck or on a bracelet, which can summon help if needed. This device should be worn at all times.
  • Prepare for power outages. Make sure you have easy access to flashlights and a battery-powered radio. Stock up on non-perishable food items and bottled water. Set up a “phone chain” with family and friends to check in on each other.
  • When venturing outside be sure to dress in layers. According to the NIA the following can be signs of hypothermia: slowed or slurred speech; sleepiness or confusion; shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs; poor body control; slow reactions or a weak pulse.
  • Avoid falls outside by wearing appropriate footwear. Wearing comfortable shoes with anti-slip soles and replacing worn walking cane tips will help to navigate in icy conditions.
  • Keep a small survival kit in the car with food and water in case you slide off the road or get stuck in a pileup.
  • Don’t drive in hazardous conditions. Find grocery stores, dining establishments and pharmacies that deliver and keep the list handy.

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