Winter Safety Checklist for Seniors

Winter in New Jersey can be unpredictable. Some years, snowfall reaches record levels while in other years, the roads are full of slush as the area becomes inundated with an icy rain. All of these unpredictable weather conditions pose their own health and safety risks. To prepare for this upcoming winter, older adults should follow some basic guidelines, including dressing for the weather, purchasing emergency supplies and taking preventative measures against falls and slips. The following is a winter safety checklist for seniors living in the New Jersey area. Temperatures can reach freezing in November, so it’s best to start prepping in early Fall.

Dress in Layers

According to the Mayo Clinic, hypothermia occurs when body temperatures fall below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. A top pick on any winter safety checklist for seniors is to dress in layers, especially in clothing designed for cold weather. Choose your coat wisely and avoid thin materials. Select a coat with a thermal layer for extra warmth. New Jersey’s weather seems to change from hour to hour. In the morning, temperatures can fall below freezing, warming only slightly in the afternoon. Wear two to three clothing layers and remove items as needed or put them back on if the temperature drops again during the evening. Hypothermia is a serious risk to anyone exposed to cold temperatures for prolonged periods.

Remember the Accessories

Along with layered clothing, wear winter weather accessories to stay warm, including wind-resistant and moisture-proof pieces. Always wear a hat, scarf and mittens. Wrap the scarf around your mouth and nose to stay protected from the cold, wet air. Protect these vulnerable areas of the body against chapped lips or skin, nosebleeds and windburn. Thermal socks and boots will help keep your feet warm and prevent frostbite. 

Watch the Thermostat

Never try to save money by keeping the thermostat too low during the winter months. Cold indoor temperatures may cause physical discomfort, while also leading to home issues like freezing pipes. At a minimum, set the indoor temperature to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Another option for heating the entire house is to rely on space heaters. However, use space heaters safely to prevent fires. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from any flammable objects. Choose versions with built-in thermostats that shut off automatically.

Monitor a Fireplace

Although fireplaces provide warmth and comfort during the winter months, they can be a safety hazard. Always stay in the room after lighting a fire. Fireplaces should also have a protective screen to prevent any sparks from releasing into a room. Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector near the fireplace. Check detectors to confirm they are working and change the batteries before the start of winter.

Avoid Falls

One of the most significant risks during the winter months is taking a tumble, which can result in injuries ranging from a bad bruise to a broken bone or sprain. Check walkways for ice before leaving the house. Winter salts can be sprinkled on walkways to melt ice and make it safer. When you go outside in poor weather conditions, wear shoes with non-skid soles and provide good traction on ice. Use walkers or canes as needed to help get over hazardous areas on the sidewalk and roadway.

Improve Home Lighting

One of the drawbacks of the winter months is the reduced amount of daylight hours. Make sure you have adequate lighting on the interior and exterior of your home. You want to be able to see well enough to continue activities of daily living.

Stay Warm and Dry

Wet clothing will lower your body temperature much quicker than dry clothing. If your clothes become damp while your spending time outside, change out of any damp clothing items as soon as you can. Ideally, stay inside when the weather is rainy or snowy. If you do have to go outside, limit the time exposed to the cold.

Stock Up on Essentials

Buy in bulk during the winter months in anticipation of not being able to grocery shop due to poor road conditions and power outages from storms. If you belong to a warehouse club, grab large quantities of all your food essentials. Focus on non-perishable items such as canned vegetables, jarred fruits, sauces, canned meats and soups that can last all winter long. You could also freeze any perishable items to prolong its shelf life. It would be best if you also stocked up on any essential items like medications so that you can continue taking care of yourself even if you can’t get to the pharmacy or doctor due to wintery conditions.

Prepare for Power Outages

During the winter months, it’s common for residents to lose power. Prepare a safety kit with everything you would need in case the power goes out. Items should include warm blankets, a flashlight and battery-operated radio. Also, create a communication plan with neighbors, friends or family so you know who to call for help. If the power goes out, dress in layers and make sure you wear a hat and mittens to stay warm until the heat comes back on.  

Winterize the Car

If you own a vehicle, take steps to get it ready for New Jersey’s rough winter roads. Get your fluids, wipers and tires inspected before using the car in bad weather. If roads are icy, try to plan an alternate route. For instance, towns plow many main roads and highways before side streets. Always have your cell phone and a charger while driving. You should also stock your vehicle with cold-weather essentials such as a shovel, extra blankets, a flashlight and warm clothes in case you are snowed in someplace. You should also have non-perishable food items and water in the car.

Consult With a Doctor About Winter Worsening Pre-Existing Conditions

According to the National Institute of Aging, several medical conditions can make it difficult for a person to keep the body temperature regulated, an issue that can be exacerbated by the colder winter weather. Thyroid disease and diabetes are two examples of medical conditions that affect your body temperature. If you have arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, two conditions that cause mobility issues, getting dressed in layers or putting on a blanket could be challenging. Talk to your doctor about any precautions you should take in the winter due to your current health status, such as increasing the thermostat’s temperature and stocking up on emergency blankets.

Find a Reliable Snow Removal Vendor

Many towns will plow and clear snow from public streets, but people are responsible for clearing their own walkways, driveways and pathways. Removing snow can be treacherous to anyone, as it requires a lot of physical energy. The work is strenuous on the heart and can increases the risk of a heart attack, fatigue or sore muscles. If needed, find a vendor to perform these snow removal jobs for you to protect your health. According to Angie’s List, the average hourly cost for one worker to shovel or snowblow a private residence is between $25 and $75.

Located in Hamilton Township, NJ, we at Homestead at Hamilton know that New Jersey winters can be beautiful, but that they also pose some serious health risks. To keep individuals at our senior living community safe, we take care of snow and ice removal services. When the winter air gets too frigid, residents can cozy up by the living room fire to get warm. Additional amenities provided on-site include chef-created meals, around-the-clock security, scheduled transportation, daily activity schedule and much more. Contact us today to learn more about life at Homestead at Hamilton.

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