Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

Winter can be a dangerous time. Power outages, hazardous road conditions, and extreme cold can threaten the health of even the heartiest people, and seniors can be especially susceptible to the hazards of winter. The key to keeping you and your loved ones safe throughout the winter months is to be prepared and limit your exposure to these risks. Here are some winter safety tips for you or your loved one to keep in mind.

Know How to Prevent Potential Hazards in the Home

Extreme cold can create many potential hazards in your loved one’s home. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to prepare for these issues and keep the house’s inhabitants safe.

Carbon Monoxide

According to The National Weather Service, “Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States.”

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, the National Weather Service emphasizes that you should never run generators indoors or use a gas oven to heat your home; all heating devices should be used as intended, by following the manufacturer’s instructions. You should also buy and install a carbon monoxide detector so everyone will know if a leak has occurred.


Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes can burst and create a mess (and expensive repair bill) for seniors. Make sure your loved one knows how to prevent and safely thaw frozen pipes before winter hits:

  • Prevention: Let the faucet drip to keep water moving. Set the thermostat above 55 F and keep cabinet doors open so warm air can circulate.
  • Treatment: Run the water and warm the frozen pipe with an “an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, or a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.” High heat from tools like a blowtorch can damage the pipes or start a fire and should not be used.


Limited Food Supplies and Contact

Preserved food, marinated fermented and pickled vegetables

Cold temperatures and icy conditions can make it difficult to travel. Make sure the house is well-stocked with food for the winter, including non-perishables that can be eaten if the power goes out. You should also have a plan to check on elderly relatives and friends; if you don’t live nearby, see if a neighbor can help.


Heating Hazards

thermostatic valve on radiator close up

Heat sources can be potential fire hazards when used incorrectly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using space heaters with “automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements,” and keeping them at least three feet away from flammable materials like drapes and furniture. All heating elements should be vented properly (if applicable) and power cords should be kept safely out of the way.

Limit Exposure to the Outdoors

Staying out too long in the cold can lead to hypothermia or frostbite, and icy conditions can increase the risk of falling — especially for seniors. Older adults should limit their exposure to the outdoors in cold temperatures and make sure their sidewalks are kept shoveled and salted when venturing out.

When doing snow removal, older adults should also be mindful of their activity level and any health conditions they may have. According to The National Safety Council, “Sudden exertion, like moving hundreds of pounds of snow after being sedentary for several months, can put a big strain on the heart,” and warns that cold weather can “increase heart rate and blood pressure,” even in healthy people.

The American Heart Association has a list of tips for shoveling snow more safely.

Travel Safely

Adverse weather conditions can make traveling dangerous; according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 21% of vehicle crashes that occur every year are weather-related.

Seniors should weigh the risks carefully before venturing out in adverse conditions and be prepared. To make sure their car is ready for winter, have the engine coolant and antifreeze levels checked, as well as the pressure and tread depth of the tires.

Each car should also have a winter car emergency kit, which includes supplies like an ice scraper, portable shovel, blanket, flashlight, battery booster cables, and a first-aid kit. Make sure your loved one knows what to do if their car gets stuck in the snow, or they need to flag down help.

Be Prepared This Winter

The cold weather months can be a dangerous time for seniors. Make sure you know the risks and help your loved one stay safe by preparing properly for winter.

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