Address these common senior safety issues during the winter

Although the calendar recently flipped to October, winter is on the horizon, and the arrival of colder temperatures and harsher weather presents a host of challenges for the senior population. Winter months also put a bit more pressure on family caregivers to make sure their elderly loved ones are kept safe as thermometer readings drop. While it may be more difficult than during other times of the year, there are some steps that caregivers and seniors should keep in mind as the weather begins to change.

Focus on footing
Falls are among the most serious health risks facing the senior population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of adults 65 and older experience a fall each year, and they are the leading cause of injury-related death among seniors. With the icy conditions that come along with the arrival of winter, seniors are placed at an even heightened risk for losing their footing.

Preventing falls during the winter all starts with footwear. It’s essential for seniors to focus on what they’re wearing on their feet if the ground is coated in ice. For instance, shoes with good traction and non-slip soles are of the utmost importance. Family caregivers should also make a point to help their elderly loved ones by making sure their walkways are clear, salted and free of any obstructions that could raise the risk of falls, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends.

Choose the right clothes
Hypothermia is a serious winter-related health risk for seniors, who are often less able to regulate their body temperatures than younger adults. Certain illnesses and medications often change the way seniors’ bodies respond to cold temperatures. The most important step to preventing hypothermia is for caregivers to make sure the temperature inside a home does not dip too low. If seniors venture outside, it’s especially important for them to wear warm socks, a heavy coat, gloves and a scarf.

Watch for signs of depression
It can be hard to recognize symptoms of depression in the senior population, but it can have a significant impact on their overall well-being. According to AgingCare.com, older adults may be at a greater risk of mental health issues during the winter months due in large part to the lack of daylight, vitamin D deficiency and elevated risk of social isolation. As a result, it becomes increasingly important for caregivers to pay attention to the potential symptoms. Some of the most telling signs of depression are a lack of energy, increased irritability and loss of interest in everyday activities.

Be prepared for the worst
Aside from simply being colder than normal, winter can often bring more extreme weather with it, and in turn, put seniors at a greater risk for experiencing power outages. Caregivers should make a point to help their elderly loved ones create an emergency kit, especially if they live alone. Such resources should contain mostly common sense materials – flashlights, food, batteries and blankets – so they can get by on their own until you can come help them out.

Communication is key
Senior caregivers should be checking in on their elderly relatives with some regularity regardless of what time of the year it is, but this is especially important during the colder winter months. Checking in frequently can help ensure your older parents have the proper supplies and are safe. You should also communicate to them that they should call you if they run into any significant challenges.