Cold winter temperatures can pose risks for anyone. However, for seniors who are more fragile, less resilient and have compromised immune systems, cold weather has the potential to be especially dangerous. Whether living in a nursing home or their own residence, here are some important cold weather tips for the elderly to keep in mind.
Prevent Against Hypothermia and Frostbite
Hypothermia and frostbite can affect persons of all ages. It occurs when skin is exposed to freezing temperatures for an extended period of time, or when body temperature drops significantly.
Frostbite can be devastating. In severe cases, it may result in the necessity of amputation of the affected extremity. Hypothermia can also lead to death.
To prevent against hypothermia and frostbite among the elderly, stay indoors as much as possible. If going outside, do so for a reasonable amount of time. Be sure that precautions are taken such as wearing a warm winter coat, hat, gloves and scarf. Multiple layers of clothing should also be worn.
Make sure that indoor temperatures are also maintained. Older homes may have poor insulation. An elderly person living alone could easily forget to turn on the heat or service a heating system.
Watch Out for Shoveling-Related Injuries
Many elderly adults are still in good enough health to handle their own snow removal. Doing so can be a great form of exercise. However, shoveling snow can also be a lot of work. Sometimes, it may be too much for an aging body.
When it is cold, your body has to work extra hard to keep you warm. If this is combined with the strenuous labor of snow removal, it can be highly dangerous.
For elderly people who want to handle their own snow removal, be sure they dress warm, take frequent breaks and get rest when needed. They should watch out for ice, which could lead to a slip and fall.
Additionally, they should not try to remove too much snow at once as too much weight could strain the back.
Navigating the Outdoors When Snow and Ice are Present
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture reports that every year, slip and fall accidents claim the lives of 20,000 people and cause 30,000 additional serious injuries.
Snow and ice present the risk of slip and fall injuries when walking outdoors. If you are responsible for the care of an elderly person, make sure all snow and ice is removed from driveways and outdoor stairs and sidewalks. Also, be sure to apply salt to help combat slipping on ice.
For elderly people, shoes with traction are important. Walking with someone else who can provide support and stability is always a good idea.
Preventing Weather-Related Driving Accidents
No matter what age you are, it is always important to practice safe driving techniques when outside conditions are less than ideal. Here are some tips for safe driving for seniors when it is wet and icy:
Slow down. A driver should always slow speed when driving in adverse conditions even if it means driving below the speed limit. By driving slower, you have more time to stop. You are also more likely to retain control of your vehicle if you hit a patch of ice.
Provide more following distance. When conditions are poor, a driver should be sure to allow for plenty of distance between the driver’s vehicle and other vehicles. It can be hard to stop quickly if conditions are wet or icy. The more room you have, the better off you will be.
Make sure your car is in good condition. Elderly people may forget to service and maintain their vehicles. So, if you have an elderly loved one, be sure that a yearly automotive check up takes place. If your loved one will be driving, make sure they have appropriate tires with good traction, working brakes and windshield wipers. Also be sure that the heat is working within the vehicle, which could be life-saving in the event of a breakdown or accident.
Drivers should avoid driving if weather is especially bad or if they suffer from certain health conditions. The best safety tip for driving in the winter: Don’t do it. If your elderly loved one can at all help it, he or she should avoid getting behind the wheel when weather conditions are not good, including when it is dark.
Additionally, a senior should avoid driving if he or she suffers from certain health conditions or is taking medications that could impair his or her ability to drive.
Taking Precautions Against Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
When it is cold outside, a raging fire indoors can be a great way to stay warm and get in the holiday spirit. However, fires, candles and other sources of heat can all be dangerous and lead to serious, unintended fires within a home.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is also a risk. Any sources of natural gas should be used with caution.
Make sure that working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are within your elderly loved one’s residence and chimneys and flues are fully inspected. Keep space heaters away from cloth or anything else that could catch fire. Always burn out candles or use artificial, flame-free candles.
Hurt by the Negligence of Another? Get Help from an Experienced Lawyer
Whether you are an elderly person yourself, or the loved one or caregiver of an elderly person, we hope that you will pay attention to our cold weather safety tips for the elderly listed above and implement safety ideas in your home.
If your loved one is harmed this winter, and you believe the harm was the result of a caregiver’s or nursing home’s negligence, our experienced attorneys at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., can advise you of your rights and options.
We are passionate about representing victims of elder abuse and neglect throughout New Jersey. Reach us online or by phone to tell us more about your case and schedule a free case consultation.