With winter weather upon us, we wanted to share 5 important safety tips to help keep you safe. These tips are particularly beneficial for seniors. For many seniors, winter presents such challenges as having to deal with slippery roads and sidewalks, temperature-related issues such as hypothermia, and reduced possibility of neighbours, friends, or family dropping by to check in.
1. SNOW SHOVELING
Shoveling snow can be a hazardous activity, especially for seniors, who may not be used to the increased activity or who may have chronic health issues. We recommend using a snow blower or hiring a snow clearing company or person to take care of your snow shoveling. If you are shoveling, and feel short of breath or experience other physical symptoms, STOP and take a break. Go gradually and always assess how you are doing.
2. CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTION
According to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, more than 50 people die every year from Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in Canada. The gas is odorless and invisible so you would need a detector in order to be alerted if levels are high in your home. It is recommended that you have a CO detector on every storey of your home. But it is more important to have one near the bedrooms. Test your CO alarm regularly and replace it according to manufacturer's suggestion.
To keep levels of CO low in your home, make sure to perform regular maintenance of your appliances. As well do annual maintenance of your woodstoves, furnace and clean your chimney.
If your CO alarm goes off or if you think you are experiencing CO poisoning symptoms, you should leave your property as soon as possible and look for fresh air. Do not come back to your house (until an official deems it safe to do so). Call 911 from your cellphone or a neighbour’s house.
3. PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST FALLING
The number of falls experienced by seniors increases very significantly during the winter season. Some of these falls end up causing more serious health challenges. We suggest wearing good quality winter shoes designed for the weather. Avoid climbing through mountains of snow or navigating areas where the terrain is more challenging due to snow or ice. Also, take your time to get to places and try not to travel alone.
4. HOW TO STAY WARM
Cold temperatures can be dangerous. To keep warm and stay safe, it is important to dress suitably for the weather by wearing layers of light but warm clothing. When going outdoors, wear warm, waterproof footwear. Also, make sure you are wearing mittens or gloves, a hat and a scarf. Ensure your home is winterized and well-insulated. Get your furnace serviced by an HVAC professional.
5. SIGNS OF HYPOTHERMIA
For older people, a body temperature of 35 C or lower can cause a number of health problems, such as heart attacks, kidney problems, liver damage or worse. This is why it is so important to watch for signs of hypothermia as ones suffering may not realize what is happening. Warning signs for Hypothermia are: cold feet and hands; skin that is pale or ashy; feeling tired, confused and sleepy; feeling weak; problems walking; slowed breathing or heart rate. Call 911 immediately if you think you or someone you know has hypothermia.