2012-12-21 / Community

Tips For Seniors On Staying Safe

Planning ahead for cold weather and winter storms can be lifesaving, especially for older adults who are more vulnerable during winter-related health and home threats like hypothermia or power outages. According to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control) from 1999 to 2002 hypothermiarelated diagnoses caused 4,607 deaths, nearly half of which involved people 65 or older. For seniors, there are natural physical differences that factor into their increased vulnerability, including slower metabolisms resulting in slower generation of body heat, poor circulation, and reduced sensitivity to changes in body temperature.

The key to cold safety is prevention. Vladimir Kotelnik, RN and Geriatric Care manager with Partners in Care, an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, offers the following tips to ensure seniors stay safe this season:

Stay warm

Like high blood pressure, hypothermia can be a “silent killer” because victims may not be aware of the threats of prolonged exposure to the cold nor the early symptoms such as shivering, exhaustion, drowsiness, reduced coordination, slurred speech and memory loss. Seniors who are sick or have diabetes are more likely to not notice that their body temperature is dropping.

 Dress warmly: Wear loose-fitting and
layered clothing. Mittens are warmer
than gloves because fingers generate
warmth when they touch each other.
 Check your heating: Have your heating system serviced professionally;
inspect and clean fireplaces and
chimneys. Keep your thermostat to a
recommended 70°F. Use electric
space heaters in bedrooms or bathrooms as an economical way of heating small rooms.
 Eat well: Food provides the body with
energy and essential nutrients to
help maintain adequate body temperature at 98.6°F.

Winterize your home
Don’t let the next winter storm or natural disaster surprise you. Instead, prepare for the worst and keep supplies onhand, including a fully stocked
emergency kit, and food that needs no
cooking preparation or refrigeration,
such as crackers and dried fruits.
 Insulate your home: Install weather
stripping, insulation and storm windows.  Caulking or plastic sheets can protect
windows and keep warm air in.
 Keep an emergency kit stocked with
a battery-operated flashlight, extra
batteries, first-aid kit and extra medicine.

Be safe outside

Even if you are just walking down the driveway to get the mail, bundle up and watch your step! According to the CDC, every 17 seconds a senior is taken to the emergency room because of a fall, so be extra careful when going outside and avoid walking on snow and ice.  Wear a good pair of boots with proper

tread.
 Examine rubber tips on canes and
walkers. If these tips are worn down,
they will not provide adequate traction on slippery surfaces, so always
replace tips that are worn out.
 If conditions outside are too risky, call
a neighbor or friend to help you.

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