Advice Independent Living

Stay Safe With These Winter Weather Tips

Senior woman wearing winter clothing

With winter settling in, older adults can have a higher risk of falls and other injuries, along with health problems like hypothermia. What are some steps you can take to keep yourself safe at home and on the road this winter?

Prepare your home

The risk of fires increases during the winter as people use kerosene, electric space heaters, natural gas, fireplaces and other heating sources. If you haven’t done so this season, consider having your fireplace, gas heater and gas appliances checked for any leaks or other safety problems. Without proper ventilation, they can become hazards for dangerous carbon monoxide gas.

Minimize fire risk by monitoring your fireplace when it’s in use, and keep space heaters far from curtains, bedding and other flammable materials.

In addition, prepare your home for possible winter emergencies — including power outages — by stocking non-perishable foods, a flashlight and batteries, extra medications, warm clothing, and several days’ worth of bottled water.

Keep falls and injuries at bay

When Mother Nature has dropped a blanket of snow on your driveway and sidewalk, it’s tempting to get out and shovel. If you have heart problems or mobility issues, though, you may want to consider asking a friend or neighbor for assistance — or hiring a professional snow-removal service. Shoveling snow is strenuous work and increases the risk of both heart attacks and falls.

Use caution if you venture outside for any reason. Surfaces can be slicker than they appear, and a fall can result in serious injuries. Before you walk outside, consider making sure your walkways and steps are clear of any ice. In addition, wear non-skid shoes or boots, and use a mobility device such as a cane equipped with an ice attachment if you need extra support.

Avoid frostbite and hypothermia

If you’re outdoors and you experience any of the following symptoms, you might have hypothermia, and you should call 911 immediately.

  • Feeling tired, weak or confused.
  • Slower heart rate or breathing.
  • Pale, ashy skin.

Hypothermia can happen when your body temperature drops due to extended exposure to the cold. In addition, extreme cold can cause frostbite, which results in physical damage to skin and is likeliest to affect fingers, toes, ears and face.

To protect yourself, make sure every part of your body is covered when you go outside in the cold, and go inside if your skin begins to hurt or turns red. Skin that turns grayish-yellow or white could be frost-bitten, which requires immediate medical care.

Use caution on the roads

Older adults are at more risk for wrecks, and winter driving can increase those risks. Before you take to the roads this winter, take time to prepare your car for emergencies.

Consider having your radiator serviced, and replace tires with weather-appropriate versions if necessary. In addition, use a winter formula for windshield wiper fluid, and keep your gas tank filled to avoid ice in your fuel lines.

Put together a winter emergency kit to carry with you. Include items like a portable charger for your cell phone; a flashlight, battery-powered radio and batteries; blankets; water and non-perishable food; a first-aid kit; sand or kitty litter for traction on ice; a tire pump; and flares.

To keep yourself safe this winter, the best plan is to avoid walking or driving on icy roads. In a community like New Pond Village, you can take advantage of provided transportation and enjoy the winter scenery while someone else handles the driving.

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