While it has been a mild winter here in Michigan, it is only March and who knows what Mother Nature could still have in store for us. Ice, snow and cold temperatures can be a challenge for everyone - especially seniors.
Here are 8 helpful tips from our resident occupational therapist to help stay safe and happy this winter.
Watch Out for Ice - Everyone needs to do all they can to avoid falls but ice and snow make it easier to slip and fall. Make sure to wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles. Stick to cleared sidewalks and parking lots to better avoid slippery spots. Use devices like a cane or walker as needed and always use hand rails when they are available. And never be afraid to ask for help!
Stay Warm - Seniors can be more susceptible to hypothermia due to decreasing sensitivity to touch and temperature. Don't let indoor temperatures get too low by safely heating your house - be careful with fire places and space heaters. Dress in loose layers when leaving the house and be sure to cover your head and wear gloves. In very cold temperatures, cover all exposed skin. Use a scarf to cover your mouth and protect your lungs.
- Fight Depression and Keep Your Spirits High - Between the bad weather and the constant darkness, seniors can be very isolated during the winter months. Schedule outings with friends and family to keep yourself active. If the weather gets too crazy, call someone up for an uplifting conversation about all the things you will do in the spring.
- Check the Car - Make sure your car is in good repair- especially the tires and the brakes to handle the snowy roads. Recognize that reflexes may not be as fast as they used to be so be extra cautious when the roads are slippery. It is always a good idea to have a charged cell phone, a blanket or 2 and a bottle of water in the car in case you do get stuck and have to wait for help to get back on the road.
- Be Prepared for Emergencies - Winter storms can lead to power outages. Make sure you have easy access to flashlights, battery-powered radio, warm blankets and a supply of non-perishable foods don't need to be cooked. If the power does go out, put on warm clothes and keep moving. Never bring a grill or outdoor fire pit in to the house for warmth. This winter weather checklist from the CDC will help you make sure you have everything you may need.
Eat a Varied Diet - It is easier to eat healthy in the summer with all the colorful produce available. It can take a bit more effort in the winter. Be especially careful of vitamin D deficiency which is especially common in colder climates. Eat foods rich in vitamin D or ask your doctor about a supplement.
Be Careful with Indoor Heating - Make sure your carbon monoxide detector works and has good batteries. Many indoor heating methods like fireplaces, gas heaters and lanterns can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning if in poor repair or not used properly. Also be careful with space heaters which can lead to fires if they tip over or are placed to close to blankets and curtains.
- Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help! - Your friends and family love you and want to help! They would rather see you safe and happy then to have something bad happen. Hire a professional to clear snow. Arrange rides to the grocery store and doctor's appointments. Utilize delivery services and senior transportation that may be available in your community.
Spring time is coming! With these safety tips you will be healthy and ready to go when it (finally) arrives.