February 2008: Keeping Seniors Safe in Winter

By Kerry Jarvi, Owner Pathway Care Services
Providing in home care for those who need extra assistance from companionship, homemaking, personal support work, and registered nursing services.

Winter can be a very unsafe time for seniors. Keeping a bit organized and following a few tips will help to reduce accidents and injuries.

Auto safety

To ensure winter time driving safety, have your vehicle serviced and winterized so it’s ready for winter driving and winter road conditions. Some specific items to be checked are the:
  • Tires: check the tire air pressure and make sure your tires have sufficient tread.
  • Radiator: have the anti-freeze levels checked.
  • Belts: inspect the belts and hoses for cracks or leaks.
  • Oil: ask you mechanic about switching to a thinner grade of engine oil for better performance in colder temperatures.
  • Wipers: inspect the windshield wipers and wiper fluid to ensure better visibility.
  • Battery: make sure the battery is fully charged.
Think of carrying a severe weather kit in your car. (shovel, blanket, ice scraper, emergency candles and water proof matches, water, poncho, flashlight with batteries, gloves, hand warmer, LED safety light, 5 in 1 whistle, first aid kit)

Preventing Falls

Broken hips and other joints happen more frequently in winter due wet and slippery conditions. To help prevent wintertime falls seniors should wear shoes with non-skid soles, stay only on sidewalks or areas that have been cleared of snow and ice, use handrails when available and avoid getting out after dark or in hazardous weather conditions. Ensure proper snow removal is arranged – ask a neighbour or use an agency. Install non-skid material on commonly used walk ways.
Keeping your home safer
Many seniors go out less in the winter months. It is important to ensure your house looks lived in.
  • Put a few lights on timers to go on before it gets dark.
  • Keep steps and driveway free of snow.
  • Collect mail as soon as you get home or soon after the mailman delivers.
  • Ask a family member/friend/neighbour make tire tracks in the driveway.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends.

Keeping you safer for Winter

Keep moving in the winter months to stay strong, help your balance and keep your energy up. This could include stretching and balance exercises, walking around the house or getting out of the house on good days will keep you in shape for the spring. The winter is also a good time to try out a new indoor exercise class.

If you are shoveling yourself, you should be doing some gentle cardio exercises on a regular basis to keep your heart healthy. Once you are done shoveling, walk around a bit.

Ensure you are dressed for the weather, covering your ears, head and fingers, wearing sunglasses to reduce the glare on sunny days, layers to stay warm and good sturdy boots that fit. Try to avoid clothes that are too bulky.