Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Winter safety is crucial, especially in an area like Grand Rapids where we can get the lake effect snow and ice. Although we were fortunate enough to have a late winter start, the snow and dangerous weather conditions are here. Winter safety is important for all ages, but older adults especially should take extra precaution when handling winter conditions.
As the temperatures drop, older adults run a higher risk of health problems. Common health problems and injuries related to weather include, but are not limited to; hypothermia, falls, frostbite, shoveling injuries, and driving accidents.
Hypothermia is when the body’s temperature drops to a dangerous level. This can easily happen when not dressed in the appropriate clothing, such as warm and dry layers. It is important to limit your time outside in the cold weather, and keep your indoor temperature at 65 degrees or above. Warning signs of hypothermia in older adults includes cold pale skin, confusion and weakness, and slowed breathing or heart rate. Make sure to call 911 if you or someone else is showing signs of hypothermia.
Frostbite is caused when extreme cold effects the parts of the body furthest from the heart. Older adults with heart disease and other circulation problems are at higher risk, as this limits blood flow to the limbs. It is important to remain covered up in the cold weather. All parts of the body should be covered. If skin starts to become red or dark, go inside and run the area under warm water and call for medical attention.
Shoveling is a job no one likes, but has to be done. To keep the body warm, the heart pumps harder the colder it is outside. When doing a strenuous exercise, like shoveling, the heart works even harder. Older adults who may have a heart condition should be very careful when shoveling. Again, make sure to dress appropriately and be cautious for slippery conditions when shoveling.
Falls can happen no matter your age and slippery and icy conditions do not make walking easy. Make sure to only walk on areas that have been shoveled and salt has been spread. Walk slowly and look where you are going. Wear appropriate footwear, such as non-skid soles, with good traction to prevent slips. If you use a cane, try a rubber tip or ice pick on the end to improve traction.
Extra caution should also be taken when driving. “Adults 65 and older are involved in more car accidents per mile driven than those in nearly all other age groups.” The winter can cause dangerous road conditions, so make sure to “winterize” your car. It is important to have tires with better traction, effective windshield wipers, and an ample supply of windshield fluid. Carry a cell phone for emergency purposes, and avoid unnecessary trips. Lastly, stock your car with emergency supplies like a first aid kit, blankets, cables, shovels, snacks, and a flashlight.