Cold weather and icy conditions are risky for everyone. But seniors are especially at risk for hypothermia, exposure, and slips and falls, often due to poor circulation, frail bones and the onset of age-related disease.
Wintry weather is a concern to all local residents, but those concerns are magnified when it comes to senior citizens. As temperatures in the Tri-State dip dangerously low, local residents should remember seniors are particularly susceptible to frigid conditions. Here are a few concerns and tips for seniors during this winter weather emergency:
- Snow and ice, especially black ice, present scary opportunities for falls. Walk arm-in-arm with the assistance of another adult whenever possible. Always keep a hand tightly grasped on a railing when navigating stairs. Keep hands and arms free to maintain balance and avoid slipping. Should a fall occur, do not hesitate to call 911; keep your cell phone in an outside jacket or pants pocket for easy access.
- Those who suffer from diabetes may already experience numbness in fingers and toes. Due to this condition, known as myopathy, diabetes sufferers may not even feel the pain from exposure. Wear extra layers to avoid frostbite. Caregivers should ensure seniors are well-bundled and double-check all digits for signs of frostbite.
- A strong wind can literally knock people off their feet, whether due to slight frames, poor balance or stiff joints. Walk arm-in-arm with another adult in the case of high winds, and always use a handrail on steps/stairs.
- Seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia don’t always know how to dress appropriately for weather conditions, e.g. potentially walking outdoors without a coat. Caregivers should plan to check on their senior charges at least once per day.
- Hypothermia can occur even indoors, especially at night when temperatures fall. Layer blankets and bed clothes to reduce risks.
- Winter weather conditions always make for dangerous driving, but for those whose senses may not be as sharp as they once were, ride-sharing or public transportation can be more reliable. If using public transportation, however, remember to bundle up in many layers – the more, the better.
- Be vigilant! Stiff muscles, shivering, loss of coordination/balance and confusion are not only some symptoms of old age, but also hypothermia.