Winter brings snow, ice, and cold temperatures to many regions. If you or your senior loved one live in such an area, it’s important to understand the risks of the season. It’s a beautiful time of year with lots of excitement as the holidays approach, but it has its hazards. The conditions can be a danger to people of any age, especially the elderly.
The best thing to do is to know how to mitigate the risks of winter so that you or your loved one can enjoy the season and stay safe. Be mindful of the weather and remember that older people face challenges that younger people do not, like being more susceptible to the cold.
If your loved one resides in an assisted living community, then they are already a step ahead when it comes to safety. These facilities are built to protect older adults all year round. If you have been asking yourself “Is an assisted living community a safe place for my loved one?” then it may be time to look into it.
What can you do to protect yourself or an aging loved one from the potential perils of the winter season?
Monitor the Weather Forecast When Making Plans
If you plan to go out or to take your loved one out, monitor the weather forecast. This will help you determine if it’s a good time to travel and how to prepare.
The weather can change, so make sure you keep an eye on the forecast leading up to the day of your plans. If there is a risk of severe conditions, it may be best to postpone an event or reschedule an appointment.
Some areas can see dramatic changes during this time of year. While one area may have heavy snow, another might see rain or rain and ice. Use this information to ensure that you have appropriate attire with you in case conditions change or become extreme.
Always Dress for the Weather Using Layers
Seniors should dress in layers when going out during winter. This is the best way to stay warm but also have the option to remove a layer if they start to overheat. Everyone should be comfortable when going out, and layering is a great way to do that.
Keep in mind that slush or melting snow can cause garments to become damp. It’s always helpful to bring a change of clothes if possible, or at least a few basics like dry socks.
Always wear shoes that provide plenty of foot support with good treads for traction. Even if a senior won’t be hiking in the woods, they may still encounter ice and snow on sidewalks or in parking lots. Road salt can also be a slipping hazard when wearing the wrong footwear.
Follow Doctor’s Orders for Immunizations
Seniors should check in with their doctors to discuss winter health preparations. The fall and winter are considered flu season because infections peak during this part of the year.
Your doctor may recommend a flu shot or other measures to protect you or your loved one. Talking directly with their doctor will give them the best recommendations based on their individual needs.
It’s best to start this process during or before the fall so you or your loved one are ready when the time comes. Your doctor can also suggest lifestyle changes that will help build the immune system during the cooler months. For example, your doctor may suggest safe ways for seniors to stay fit indoors to avoid weight gain during winter.
Use COVID-19 Safety Measures at Holiday Events
While COVID-19 is not as rampant as it was a couple of years ago, it is still around. And it is still a big concern for the elderly. Keep this in mind during the winter when people often attend crowded holiday events and gatherings.
If you or a senior loved one will be going to a family get-together or a community event, make sure they are vaccinated. It may still be advisable to wear a mask and try to avoid close contact with others.
Verify That Their Living Space is Comfortable
One of the biggest benefits of assisted living is that these communities provide seniors with a safe, clean place to live that’s well-maintained. Staff handles all cleaning and repairs as needed.
It doesn’t hurt to check in with your loved one and make sure they are comfortable in their living space. Is their room as warm as they like? Have they noticed a draft coming from a door or window?
If so, be their advocate and talk to staff to find a solution. It’s possible that a minor repair was overlooked, or something needs to be reinsulated.
Have Extra Blankets or Heating Pads Ready
Having extra blankets or a heating pad on hand can help seniors stay cozy this winter. A spare blanket or two will ensure they can always bundle up if they are feeling chilly.
Heating pads are great, especially if they are portable. Electric pads work well but will require an electrical outlet. There are microwavable heating pads that are safe and convenient. After warming in the microwave, they can be used anywhere without an outlet. They come in different shapes with and without straps so that they can be held or worn.
Avoid Travel During Inhospitable Weather
Human beings can’t control the weather. If it’s going to rain or snow, we have to adapt. Unfortunately, these conditions can appear when we have other plans. When this happens, it’s important to put safety first.
For example, a family gathering may fall on a day that has a blizzard in the forecast. It may be best to not bring grandma or grandpa to the festivities if the weather poses a risk.
It’s sometimes a difficult decision to make, so it helps to have a backup plan. If you can’t reschedule the whole gathering, consider planning another event at a later date that will include your loved one.
Talk About Assisted Living Emergency Plans
Every assisted living facility should have an emergency plan. This should include different potential situations. If the region experiences winter conditions, then staff should know what to do if something occurs during a heavy snowstorm.
Ask staff about their emergency plan. What will they do if the power goes out on a cold, snowy day? What if there is too much ice and snow to leave? Do they stock several days’ worth of supplies in case they are snowed in?
This information will help families feel confident that their family member is in a safe place. You can also share the details with your loved one so they can feel comfortable knowing they are safe, and the staff is prepared.
Know the Signs of Hypothermia in Seniors
The cold can affect older adults quicker than others. You and your loved one should know the symptoms of hypothermia so that you can take action before it’s too late.
The early signs of hypothermia include:
- Cold hands and feet
- Slowed speech
- Feeling confused, sleepy, or angry
- Pale skin
- Swollen face
If a senior doesn’t seek warmth, hypothermia can progress. Later signs include:
- Uncontrollable jerking in limbs
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Slowed heartbeat
- Going in and out of consciousness
If you notice the signs of hypothermia, move to a warm place immediately. If you can’t do that, you can also try skin-to-skin contact to transfer body heat. Wrap both people in a blanket for insulation.
A warm non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage can also help.
You should seek immediate medical attention to get body temperature back to where it should be and ensure there are no other health complications.
Consider a Move to a Warmer Climate
Seniors who struggle with winter weather conditions should consider a move to a warmer climate.
Arizona is a popular choice among senior citizens. The state has high temperatures and a dry heat. The lack of humidity makes the warmer season more comfortable compared to other parts of the country.
Depending on which part of Arizona you live in, you may never or rarely have to deal with snow. It’s an ideal setting for seniors.
Learn More About Assisted Living at Vista Living
Begin your search for a warm place to call home with Vista Living Senior Care. Our residential facilities provide all the amenities of home without the risk of heavy ice and snow. Visit the Vista Living Senior Care website or give us a call to learn more.