The weather seems to have suddenly changed. Saying good-bye to the summer is always difficult but is one of the wonders of living in a place with 4 seasons.Seemingly out of nowhere the temperature drops and the leaves start falling. And so begins the time when we again need to be concerned about cold and flu season, dressing warmly and winter safety issues. For seniors, these concerns are amplified as recovering from an illness or fall may take far longer than for younger people. A woman I have come to know in a nearby retirement home who was spry and active, using only a cane on occasion, fell a couple of months ago, hurt her hip and now is using a walker. Having not seen her in a while I was reminded how we cannot take our health for granted and always need to be aware of everyday risks.
And so, looking ahead, I thought it might be helpful to talk a bit about winter safety for seniors. Cold and flu season is a worrisome time and so, prevention is key. Hand washing, lots of fluids, eating a healthy diet, dressing properly for the weather and getting medical attention as soon as one begins feeling ill are logical but often we dismiss any or all of the above until we become terribly sick.
Slips and falls outside in winter weather can happen easily and can be prevented or at least can be less risky if one makes sure that they only walk in areas that have been properly salted and cleared, wear no skid footwear, use a cane if they require it (with a proper tip for the weather), and don't take unnecessary chances.
For senior drivers, car accidents in the winter are common as well - winterize your car and avoid unsafe and icy roads. If you don't feel you are safe driving in certain weather, stay home or use another form of transportation. Don't take unnecessary risks especially in bad weather.
For those who spend a lot of time outdoors, hypothermia is often a concern. Wear warm clothing (including gloves, hat and scarf), stay inside if it's cold or windy and keep your home at a comfortable temperature.
In the home, home heating safety can be an issue. Invest in a carbon monoxide detector, ensure your furnace is serviced and working properly, ensure smoke detectors are working and be very careful if you are using a space heater.
Most importantly though, seniors should be aware of their own limitations and not afraid to ask for help.