While many of us may prefer to stay indoors when the temperature drops, chances are that eventually, we will have reason to leave the house. Errands, family visits, doctors appointments and work are all occasions when we will need to face the bitter cold of winter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injuries and hospital admissions among adults 65 and older, and the risk of injury increases even further during the winter months. InnovAge – a nonprofit organization that serves as the comprehensive resource for Colorado’s aging population – recommends that everyone, especially elderly individuals, take extra measures to stay safe when the cold weather sets in.

Make Your Home Safe

“When we feel in control of our surroundings we tend to let our guard down, which is why an overwhelming number of falls occur within the home,” said Annisa Cotton, care supervisor for InnovAge Home Care – an InnovAge program that provides non-skilled in-home services. “It’s important to remember that even our familiar living spaces can be affected by severe winter weather.”

The entranceways, stairs and steps of the home can become more hazardous in winter months. InnovAge offers the following simple tips for weatherproofing and safety.

  • Make sure that your steps or ramp have a non-slip surface and a secure handrail.
  • Keep paths free of clutter, snow, ice and leaves.
  • Keep the porch light or front entrance lights on–remember that it gets darker earlier in winter, which means less visibility.
  • If possible, install lights that turn on when they detect motion or when it gets dark.
  • Be aware of uneven ground, and take measures to avoid it when leaving or coming home.


Be Aware of How Changing Weather Conditions Affect Your Daily Routine

On any given day, our surroundings can put us at risk for a fall, especially when we are unable to take the same safety measures that we would at home. Regardless of the location, winter weather conditions such as rain, snow and ice are all potential causes for an accident. “The good news is that most slips, trips and falls can be prevented, as long as we remember to take our time and pay close attention to our surroundings,” said Cotton. The InnovAge team suggests keeping the following best practices in mind when out and about.

  • Wear proper footwear – low heels, good tread and closed toes.
  • Always use the handrail on stairs and walkways, planting your foot squarely and firmly on each step.
  • On ice, take shorter steps and walk at a slow pace.
  • Walk with your feet pointed slightly outward.
  • If possible, keep your arms free to help keep your balance.
  • Always watch for black ice, as it often just looks like a wet spot on the ground.
  • When entering a building, make sure you tap the snow and ice from your shoes.
  • Be aware that floors may already be wet from others who entered before you.
  • When entering and exiting your vehicle, use the door for stability in case you lose your footing on slippery surfaces.


Prepare for the Unexpected

Changing weather patterns can account for all kinds of conditions, including flash floods, downpours and snowstorms. Winter power outages often affect heat, electricity and the ability to communicate with the outside world. The weather can certainly be unpredictable, therefore InnovAge encourages taking extra precautions by putting together a survival kit to keep in your home, preferably on a main floor where it is easily accessible. “Of course we never want to have to use an emergency survival kit,” said Cotton, “but being prepared provides peace of mind for everyone, including aging individuals and their loved ones.“

InnovAge suggests that the following items be considered as part of a home survival kit.

  • At least three days’ worth of medication and medical supplies. If you take insulin, pre-fill a three-day supply of syringes.
  • List of the medications you take regularly and their dosages, to include the name of the prescribing physician and a list of any allergies.
  • Contact list of physicians, family and friends who should be notified in case of injury.
  • Flashlight, battery operated radio and extra batteries in case of a power outage. Do not include candles, as they are a fire hazard.
  • List of important documents in a waterproof container.
  • Whistle to notify emergency response team, if necessary.
  • Manual can opener.
  • A small amount of cash, including coins – ATM machines and banks may not be in operation during electrical outages.
  • Three days of non-perishable food and water. A good rule of thumb is to store one gallon of water per person, per day.
  • If you have a catheter of any kind, remember to include sterile water to clean the catheter site.
  • If you use oxygen, arrange for a backup unit.

InnovAge Home Care is a part of InnovAge, a nonprofit organization that serves as the comprehensive resource for Colorado’s aging population and is here to help seniors and caregivers, alike. InnovAge provides a full spectrum of services to enable older adults to live independently in their homes and communities. InnovAge offers skilled and non-skilled home care services, healthcare and day programs, care management and memory loss programs in communities throughout Colorado. For more information about InnovAge services in your area, please visit www.MyInnovAge.org or call 719-553-0478.

Tags: innovage, safety, seniors, tips

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