Caregivers: Protect Your Senior Loved Ones in Icy Weather

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“Oh, the weather outside is frightful…”

But that doesn’t mean seniors should stay confined indoors for the next three months. A fear of falling can force many seniors to do exactly that, but with a few precautions, seniors can venture out safely if necessary. Staying housebound isn’t the best way for your favorite senior to stay active and stave off winter depression, either.

Senior Falls: A Real Threat
Falling on ice or slippery snow is a valid fear. According to LearnNotToFall.com, a website run by Philips Lifeline to raise awareness about the dangers of falls, 31 percent of all senior falls are caused by accidents or environmental conditions, which can include slipping on icy steps or sidewalks.

Here are some other quick fall facts:

  • One-third of seniors over the age of 65 fall each year.
  • One-half of seniors age 80+ fall annually.
  • Seniors who fall once are two to three times more likely to fall again. A fall-related hip fracture greatly increases the odds of another fall within six months.

These tips can help prevent the senior in your care from falling when the temps drop.

Making the Entryway Safer in the Snow

Many falls occur right in front of a senior’s home. Therefore, focus your efforts on creating a safe entryway to prevent falls. Follow these steps:

1. Shovel snow, chip away as much ice as you can, and use rock salt, ice melt or sand to dissolve the rest of the ice on the steps and path leading to the door. In a pinch, cat litter will also work to create a less slippery surface.

2. Check the strength and safety of the handrail. It shouldn’t wobble when you touch it and should be easy to grasp. If a handrail is not in place, consider installing one, or even one on either side of the steps.

3. Add a rubber mat inside the entry way to wipe off shoes and avoid an indoor fall. Also consider placing a bench with shoe storage right near the entry way, so the senior can remove her shoes upon entering the house and avoid the risk of trailing water, snow and ice into the home, where it creates a fall hazard.

Additional Ice Safety Tips

Here are some more tips to walk safely in icy conditions.

Choose the right shoes. 
Even though the path to and from their house is clear, it doesn’t mean seniors won’t encounter ice in parking lots or on sidewalks. Grab those “silver sneakers” or snow boots with flat heels and rubber soles for safer walking on snow and ice.

Walk empty-handed for better balance.
Encourage your loved one to get help carrying packages inside, so he or she can use both arms for balance, instead. Seniors should walk with both hands at their sides or on a railing, not in their pockets.

Walk slowly. 
If you’re walking with a senior, encourage them to take their time and pay attention to their surroundings to avoid a fall.

Be mindful of medications.
Some medications can adversely affect balance. Ask your loved one’s doctor if you’re not sure about side effects of medications your loved one might be taking. If drugs can affect balance, encourage the senior in your care to always walk with a companion.

Winter Home Maintenance Made Easy

In a senior community, snow shoveling and sanding of the steps and pathway are included as part of the regular maintenance. The paths and walkways in the senior community should also be kept clear and free of ice and snow.

Seniors can request help from staff if they are walking the grounds to reach the dining hall or an activity. In a senior living community, there’s no need to stay housebound just because there’s snow and ice on the ground and, indeed, rather than fearing freezing temps, seniors can have the experience of walking in a winter wonderland.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (866) 662-0435 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.