Tips for a safer winter 2020/2021

By Jonathan Acton jonathan.acton@homeinstead.ie

During the winter months, ice, snow and cold temperatures can make life challenging for anyone.

Slippery footpaths and cold weather can cause a wide range of injuries and illnesses, especially for seniors. Although I’ll never forget the coverage on the six one news a few years back of a young man walking along an icy footpath quite briskly and landing head over tail. Thankfully he was young and fit enough to recover from his trip.

Avoid slipping on ice

Icy, snowy roads and paths make it easy to slip and fall. “Unfortunately, falls are a common occurrence for senior citizens, especially during the winter months,” says Dr Stanley Wang, a physician at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif. Often these falls cause major injuries such as hip and wrist fractures, head trauma and major lacerations.

While younger people often recover relatively quickly from such injuries, older adults face complications, which Dr. Wang says are a leading cause of death from injury in men and women over the age of 65.

Make sure to wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles, and stay inside until the roads are clear. Take off shoes as soon as you return indoors because often snow and ice attach to the soles and, once melted, can lead to slippery conditions inside.

Dress for warmth

Cold temperatures can lead to colds. Flu’s, frostbite and hypothermia – a condition where the body temperature dips too low. According to the CDC, more than half of hypothermia-related deaths were of people over the age of 65.

So, don’t let indoor temperatures go too low and dress in layers. Going outside? Wear warm socks, a heavy coat, a warm hat, gloves and a scarf. In very cold temperatures, cover all exposed skin. Use a scarf/mask to cover your mouth and protect your lungs.

Your body temperature should never dip below 95 degrees – if it does get medical assistance immediately.

Fight wintertime depression

Because it can be difficult and dangerous to get around, many seniors have less contact with others during cold months. This can breed feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Remember to link in with people in your bubble during level 5 restrictions and use technology to keep in touch. Recently I introduced our three-week-old baby to my sister and her family over Watts app which was still a special moment even though there were no hugs.

Check the car

Driving during the winter can be hazardous for anyone. But it is especially dangerous for older people, who may not drive as often any more or whose reflexes may not be as quick as they once were.

Get your car serviced before wintertime hits – or ask a family member to bring it to a garage for you. Checking things like the oil, tires, battery and wipers can make a big difference on winter roads. And don’t be afraid to ask relatives and friends to help out with shopping and errands.

Prepare for power outages

Winter storms can lead to power outages. Make sure you have easy access to flashlights and a battery-powered radio in case the power goes out. Stockpile warm blankets.

Longer power outages can spoil the food in your refrigerator and freezer so keep a supply of non-perishable foods that can be eaten cold on hand. If the power goes out, wear several layers of clothing, including a hat. Move around a lot to raise your body temperature.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Using a fireplace, gas heater or lanterns can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Ensure your safety by checking the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector and buying an updated one if you need to.

The most important tip to keep in mind during the colder months is to ask for help. If you need to clear your property of snow and ice, don’t hesitate to ask a family member or neighbour, or hire a professional. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

If you realise a friend or loved one could do with some professional caring support heading into winter then please don’t hesitate and call Home Instead on 044 9385260 and we will do our best to help and advise you.

Stay safe.

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