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A Senior’s Guide to Common Winter Hazards to be Aware of

By Jessica Deng

Winter can be a wonderful and magical time of the year, but it can also be a dangerous time of the year, especially for an older adult or someone who’s experiencing frailty. As temperatures drop, the dangers of conditions outside can increase instances of weather-related illnesses, falls on wintry surfaces, and/or injury caused by freezing (frostbite). Being informed and learning more about common winter problems can help alleviate risks during the colder months.With slippery conditions and colder temperatures, you are more likely to get injured outside. Listed below are a few hazards you may experience outside:

  • Frostbite and Hypothermia:
    • Frostbite happens when the cold weather damages the skin, possibly even damaging the bone. It typically affects body parts such as the ears, nose, chin, cheeks, toes, and fingers. If your skin turns red or dark or starts hurting, get inside. If the affected area remains discolored, run warm water over it and seek medical care.
    • Hypothermia happens when the body temperature gets too low. It is often caused by exposure to cold temperatures and leads to serious health problems, such as irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and damage to the kidneys or liver. All exposed body parts should be covered up with proper winter wear.
  • Falling:
    • Falling over is much more likely to occur during the winter due to slippery conditions. Ice and snow combined with darker days make the walkways and parking lots a lot harder to navigate during the winter. Encourage elderly people to be careful when they are out and about, dress appropriately, and if possible, stay inside when the weather is bad.
  • Cold and Flu:
    • As winter rolls around, so does cold and flu season. Seniors are at higher risk of catching diseases and are more likely to experience severe complications due to age-related immune system deficiencies.
  • Dehydration:
    • While many people associate dehydration with summer and warmer weather, it’s a major risk for elderly people during the winter too. As we age, our bodies can dehydrate faster which puts older people at risk for dehydration and other complications.
  • Winter Itch:
    • Since there is less humidity in the air during winter, dry skin is quite common. It helps to use moisturizing lotion and protective creams after bathing to relieve itching.
  • Mental Health:
    • The coldness and darkness that accompany the winter months can lead to depression or make an existing condition worse. If you find yourself affected by the change in season, speak with your doctor to see what options you have. Be sure to find enjoyable ways to keep yourself active and occupied to keep your spirits high.

With the increased risk associated with winter weather, having someone check in on your loved one or yourself is crucial. If a family or friend isn’t nearby, a professional caregiver can visit your loved one as often as needed to monitor your temperature and help your loved one. With proper care and precautions, seniors can avoid the risks posed by cold weather and remain safe and healthy throughout winter. LifeWorx offers a wide range of in-home care options for seniors and adults with disabilities or can provide companionship.

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