A fresh snowfall can indeed turn New York City into a magnificent winter wonderland. But for seniors enjoying the beauty of winter, it also means keeping warm both in and out of your homes, as well as taking extra precautions when you are out and about on icy streets. Here are some helpful tips on how to stay safe this winter.
Preparing Your Home for the Winter
Take steps to prepare your home for winter emergencies well before cold weather hits. In the event of a power outage, the following items should be included in an emergency kit:
Staying Warm and Safe in Your Home
What’s the Difference Between a Winter Storm Watch and Winter Storm Warning?
A winter storm watch means there is a possibility that a storm will hit your area and you must make sure you have an adequate supply of medications and food in your home. If you have a home health care service, plan ahead by finding out what the plan is in case of a storm.
A winter storm warning means a storm will hit your area and you should stay indoors.
If a loved one is physically or cognitively impaired, if possible, arrange for someone to stay with them during a weather emergency. Failing that, arrange for a neighbor to check on your loved one.
Dressing for Outdoors
The most effective way to keep warm is to dress in layers of lightweight clothing, wear a hat, mittens (better than gloves because your fingers are close together and provide more warmth) and wrap a scarf around your neck. For people with asthma or other breathing difficulties, the scarf can also be placed around the mouth to help protect your lungs in the cold or wind. Wearing a hip protector, which is underwear with shock absorbing pads that fits over your hips, is strongly recommended in case of a fall. Also, make sure to wear lightweight, insulated and waterproof boots which have non-slip soles. If you have to walk on hard packed snow or ice, you can place ice grippers onto your boots, but remember to remove them before walking on smooth surfaces.
Guarding Against Hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when more heat escapes from your body than your body can produce. Medical experts believe that certain conditions such as stroke, severe arthritis and Parkinson’s disease as well as certain medications can block the body’s response to cold which makes seniors more susceptible to hypothermia.
Some symptoms are shivering, slurred speech, slow and shallow breathing and general fatigue. Severe hypothermia can lead to cardiac and/or respiratory failure. If you or someone you’re with is suffering from hypothermia, it is essential to get medical attention immediately.
Walking on Snow or Ice
If sidewalks aren’t clear of snow, slush and ice, don’t go outdoors unless it is absolutely necessary. If you must, wear lightweight, insulated, water-proof, non-skid boots.
Carry some kitty litter, coarse salt or sand in a plastic bag and throw a handful in front of you before proceeding. Then walk cautiously, taking short flat steps. Remove shoes immediately upon entering your home to avoid indoor falls caused by slippery soles.
Snow Shoveling Tips
People over age 65, especially those with a history of high blood pressure or heart disease, should, whenever possible, avoid the strain of shoveling their own walkways. The risks of severe muscle strains, falls or even heart attack are simply too great.
When you must shovel, use caution, dress appropriately to avoid hypothermia and frost bite, and follow these tips:
Caring for Your Pet in the Winter
When it’s really cold or windy, it’s best to keep your pets indoors as much as possible. If your dog walks on sidewalks that have been salted, make sure to wash the dog’s paws to prevent serious skin irritation. In extreme cold, it is recommended to put a dog sweater or jacket on your pet. If you don’t have one, you can use a tee-shirt!
Plan ahead and winterize your car before the cold weather hits. It’s a good idea to have the anti-freeze levels checked and if needed, your radiator flushed and filled for easier starting. Make sure your tires are properly inflated, and that includes your spare tire. Check to see if your windshield wiper blades are worn, and replace them if needed. Fill the reservoir with windshield washer fluid to prevent freezing. Be prepared for winter emergencies by keeping an emergency car kit in your trunk.
Remember, dial 911 in case of emergency and stay in your car.
Preparing a Car Emergency Kit
Be prepared for winter emergencies by keeping the following items in your trunk:
First aid kit
Fully charged cell phone & car charger (if you own one)
Ice scraper/snow brush
Road flares or warning lights
Sand, kitty litter or coarse salt
Flashlight with extra batteries
Blanket, clothing/footwear and socks
Energy bars, unsalted nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter and water
Small tool kit
Red or white kerchief to signal distress