|Breaking Open the Word|
|World & Nation|
|Year for Priests|
|DCR Advertising Rates|
|DCR Submission Guidelines|
December 9, 2009
Take extra precautions during extreme winter weather
By Lisa M. Petsche
Due to cold temperatures, snow and ice, and the prevalence of viruses, winter poses extra health and safety risks, especially for seniors. The following are numerous ways to minimize the risk of problems for a relative in your care.
If you haven’t already done so, arrange for your relative to get a flu shot. Those over 65, especially if they have chronic illnesses, are at high risk for complications from influenza, which is a leading cause of death among adults in that age group.
Ensure your relative takes in plenty of fluids, as the dryness caused by heating systems can lead to dehydration.
Serve foods rich in vitamin C, to help ward off viruses and infections. Serve warm foods and beverages to raise body temperature.
Limit intake of alcohol, as it’s dehydrating and also speeds up body heat loss.
Stock up on non-perishable foods and bottled water, and refill prescriptions at least a week before they run out.
Ensure the indoor temperature remains above 65 degrees, ideally no lower than 68 degrees. Hypothermia is a risk to seniors even indoors, due to the decreased circulation that tends to accompany aging, as well as to inactivity, illness and some medications.
Ask your relative’s doctor or pharmacist to review his/her medications and advise if any of them affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
Ensure your relative dresses warmly, in loose-fitting layers. Don’t forget warm footwear, too. Slippers should offer adequate support, fit well and have a skid-resistant sole.
Provide your relative with several layers of warm bedding.
Keep throws in the living room and bedroom, for easy access to extra warmth on drafty days and nights.
Prepare for a power outage by creating a kit containing candles, proper candle holders, matches, flashlights or a battery-powered lamp, a battery-operated radio, fresh batteries, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable food. Store it in an accessible place.
Buy rechargeable flashlights that plug into the wall and automatically turn on when the power goes out.
Ensure heat registers and vents are not obstructed.
Exercise caution with space heaters, which can pose a significant fire hazard. Keep them several feet away from walls and combustible objects, as well as out of traffic areas.
Place candles where they won’t be knocked over, and away from lampshades, curtains and other flammable materials.
Ensure any fires—from a fireplace or burning candles—are extinguished before you go out or retire to bed.
Remain indoors during storms and extreme cold. Take into account not only the thermometer temperature but also the wind-chill factor.
When you venture out, ensure your relative has a warm coat, scarf, gloves or mittens and a hat. If he or she is weight-bearing, a pair of boots with good treads is a must. You, too, should have non-skid boots, in case you need to provide hands-on assistance.
If your relative uses a cane, buy an ice pick that fits onto the end of it and folds up when not in use. These are available at home health-care stores.
Keep walkways clear of snow and ice. If you have health problems or a large property, purchase a snow blower, or hire a young neighbor or a snow removal service.
Keep your car well-maintained and the fuel tank at least half full. Ensure the following emergency supplies are on board: a flashlight with extra batteries, emergency flares, blankets, hats and mittens, and non-perishable snacks. A cell phone also comes in handy, to summon help quickly if needed. An auto club membership is another good idea.
Check the local weather report before heading out on the road. Avoid going out if a storm warning has been issued.