Top 25 Ways To Avoid Winter Injuries for Elderly People
Winter is a particularly hazardous time of the year. The plummeting temperatures, the treacherous weather conditions as well as a general lack of preparation for the season all combine to make injuries much more likely.
Elderly people are especially vulnerable, as the unforgiving climate can exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions they may have as well as presenting them with unique dangers.
The following checklist is a set of very simple ways in which this vulnerable group in society are able to avoid these seasonal injuries, just by making small changes in their daily lives.
Clearly the often freezing temperatures of winter are a troublesome cause of injuries and illness in the elderly.
Older people have slower metabolisms and as such have less body heat. This can lead to both hypothermia and frostbite which can ultimately result in skin damage and in extreme cases can even be fatal. These conditions are even more common in people with heart disease or circulation problems, which is why the elderly are particularly susceptible.
There are many simple ways in which the elderly can keep their homes and themselves warm in order to avoid these conditions:
- keeping room temperatures at 21°C in the day
- fit draught proofing to seal gaps as well as insulating the loft, keeping the heat from escaping
- set central heating to come on earlier as this will ensure the home is kept consistently warm
- make sure to wear 2/3 thin layers of clothes – layers provide more insulation and will ensure the body retains heat
- don’t remain sitting still for long periods as movement will aid the body to keep naturally warm
- spread chores throughout the day as this will alternate periods of rest and activity, therefore, keeping you more mobile and warm
- don’t stay outside for too long
- stay indoors if very cold or windy
- be vigilant for feelings of numbness as this could be a symptom of requiring medical treatment
- eat well – it is recommended to have at least one hot meal a day in winter months and to drink plenty of hot drinks throughout the day
It is not just the low temperatures which are a cause for concern for the elderly in the winter months.
There are several hazards at this time which pose threats to the safety of older people.
Again, forward planning is the key; by making preparations for the season and by making small changes to your daily routine, the elderly can avoid injuries and remain safe.
These are hazardous to the elderly throughout the year but the dangerous conditions can make these even more likely, which can lead to broken limbs, fractures or worse.
To avoid such injuries it is recommended:
- to not walk on icy/snowy paths – instead look for routes which are dry or have been cleared
- to wear shoes which have non-skid soles to provide more stability
- to replace old slippers and canes as these can become worn out and smooth, offering little protection to winter conditions
- don’t stay outside for too long
- refrain from putting body under strain such as shovelling snow – ask someone else to do this as working hard in cold weather puts too much pressure on the heart
In the winter months, fires are used in the home to provide greater warmth and comfort. However, carbon-based fires release carbon monoxide; this can’t be seen or smelled and can in fact be fatal if the gas is not properly vented.
These potential problems can be avoided in several ways:
- the fireplaces and chimneys should be inspected yearly
- smoke detectors should be fitted in the rooms and tested weekly
- always make sure heaters are positioned at least 3 feet from flammable items
Elderly people feel the effects of the cold weather much more acutely and as such are more likely to use different ways to keep warm. Such methods can result in serious burns or scalds if caution is not taken:
- ensure hot water bottles are of good quality
- wall mounted heaters are preferable to portable ones as they do not pose a tripping hazard
People over 65 years of age are more likely to be involved in car accidents per mile driven than nearly all over age groups. The winter weather makes driving even more risky and as such there is some simple advice to consider:
- refrain from travelling alone if this is possible
- prepare the car for Winter – have the tyres and windscreen wipers checked and stock up on antifreeze
- check weather reports before long trips
- plan the journey ahead, look for routes which are not icy
- slow down, as excessive speeds will only increase the likelihood of injury
- have basic emergency supplies in the vehicle such as blankets, water, food and a mobile phone in case of being stranded in the snow
For elderly people, the key to avoiding injury in the winter months is to prepare for the cold weather beforehand and to take care in the perilous conditions. Following this advice should ensure you are able to remain safe and comfortable throughout the seasonal period.