Wow! Temperatures really dropped here in the Triangle this past week and it felt like winter arrived overnight. If you have elderly family, friends, or neighbors, please check in with them using these winter safety tips.
1. Make certain they are dressing for the weather. As we age we may not notice the cold as much, but subzero temperatures can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. The CDC reports that more than half of hypothermia-related deaths occurred in those aged 65 and older.
Keep the temperature in the house at a comfortable level and dress in layers – even indoors. If they are going outside, make sure they have access to warm socks, a winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf and boots with non-skid soles. When the temperatures dip below zero, it’s best to cover your mouth and face.
When the seasons change, plan a visit to your aging relatives and help them pack away summer clothing and get out the winter clothing. Put boots, hats, coats, scarves and other inclement weather clothing right by the door.
2. Check the car. Driving in a storm is dangerous for anyone, but can be even more so for an elderly person whose reflexes may not be as good as they used to be. Keep the vehicle with a full gas tank and have it serviced before winter; check the tires, oil, battery and wipers can make a winter drive safer.
Keep the vehicle stocked with a winter emergency kit. In case they leave the house and get stranded in a storm, having blankets, non-perishable foods, a shovel, kitty litter, water and a phone charger in the car will keep them safe until help arrives.
3. Check the house. Make certain the smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector are operational and that the batteries are installed. Using a fireplace or gas heater to stay warm in the winter can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning if the devices haven’t been inspected. Have a furnace inspection completed every year before using it for the first time of the season.
In the winter, depression is more prevalent in both the elderly and younger individuals. Part of the reason for that is because of the lack of sunshine and simply because it’s not as easy to get out of the house and interact with others. To avoid depression and loneliness, visit your elderly relatives as often as possible, check in by telephone, ask neighbors and friends to check in on them daily if possible.
What tips can you share?