Navigating Winter Weather: Tips to Keep Older Adults Safe

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Home Instead shares ways to protect older loved ones this season

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The winter months can be difficult for older adults, especially with the ongoing presence of COVID-19. Being prepared for inclement weather and having access to resources to keep feelings of loneliness at bay will be essential.

Winter is a beautiful season, but with it comes low temperatures, slippery ice and snow. While no one is immune to these hazards, they can be particularly dangerous for seniors, posing risks to their overall health and safety. Some of the most common threats include hypothermia, frostbite and falls due to icy conditions.

And while falls have been found to be the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults, with incidents increasing during winter months, this year has introduced a more prevalent risk for the aging population as they find themselves staying closer to home to remain safe during this time of year: isolation.

Staying indoors to avoid illness or injury can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mood changes associated with SAD, a type of depression, can begin and end with a new season. In some cases, the symptoms are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks and handles daily activities, as well as impact their personal relationships. As the threat of COVID-19 persists and social distancing remains necessary – yet isolating – it is crucial that family, friends and neighbors check in on older loved ones to make sure they are prepared and safe this season.

“The winter months can be difficult for older adults, especially with the ongoing presence of COVID-19. Being prepared for inclement weather and having access to resources to keep feelings of loneliness at bay will be essential,” said Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead. “Picking up items at the grocery store, delivering a new quilt or scheduling a virtual reunion are simple ways to ensure loved ones are staying safe, healthy and engaged from the comfort of their homes.”

Everyone can play an active role in helping the seniors around them enjoy their time at home and remain safe as temperatures continue to drop. Hogan offers these tips to help navigate colder temperatures:

  • Stay connected. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle of our everyday lives, but COVID-19 has shown us just how important it is to check in and connect with family and friends. To prevent feelings of loneliness and depression, find creative ways to keep seniors engaged and make sure they feel the love by scheduling a weekly call, holding a virtual movie night or dropping off a care package on their doorstep.
  • Prevent fall risks. Icy conditions increase the chance of falls. To avoid serious accidents, older adults should stay indoors as much as possible during inclement weather. If they do need to leave home, make sure their driveways, steps, walkways and porches are clear to keep them safe. Offer to shovel and lay down salt for them to help melt ice and reduce the risk of slipping.
  • Stay warm. Older adults have more trouble regulating their body temperature, and significant drops in internal temperature could lead to serious health complications. The National Institute on Aging states that even mildly cool homes with temperatures from 60 to 65 degrees can lead to hypothermia in older adults. Suggest setting thermostats to at least 68 to 70 degrees to prevent hypothermia. If they express concerns about an increase on their utility bill, remind them that their health is the top priority. Furthermore, encourage loved ones to keep their windows, blinds and curtains closed to keep the heat inside. Wearing extra layers and having additional blankets on hand are great ways to stay cozy as well.
  • Prepare for emergencies. Winter storms often lead to weather-related emergencies, including power outages. Help your loved one prepare for any situation by assembling an up-to-date emergency kit, including a flashlight, battery-powered radio, phone charger, warm blankets and clothing, first-aid kit and non-perishable food items.

While it’s impossible to avoid winter weather altogether, you can greatly reduce the risks associated with colder temperatures and dangerous conditions by planning ahead and stocking up on necessary resources. Regardless of your age, being proactive can ensure you are able to truly enjoy the season while staying safe and warm indoors.

For more tips and information on how to keep older loved ones safe, visit https://www.caregiverstress.com/senior-safety.

ABOUT HOME INSTEAD
Founded in 1994 in Omaha, Nebraska, the Home Instead® franchise network provides personalized care, support and education to enhance the lives of aging adults and their families. Today, the network is the world's leading provider of in-home care services for older adults, with more than 1,200 independently owned and operated franchises that provide more than 80 million hours of care annually throughout the United States and 13 other countries. Local Home Instead offices employ approximately 90,000 CAREGivers℠ worldwide who provide basic support services that enable older adults to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible. Home Instead franchise owners partner with clients and their family members to help meet varied individual needs. Services span the care continuum – from providing personal care to specialized Alzheimer’s care and hospice support. Also available are family caregiver education and support resources. Visit HomeInstead.com. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Dan Wieberg
Home Instead Senior Care
+1 (402) 575-5970
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