Staying Safe this Winter: Our Top 5 Tips
The season of giving is upon us. In the coming months, many of us will spend our evenings' carolling, visiting holiday markets, and spending some quality holiday time with our families.
However, caught amongst the childlike wonder that this season brings, many of us forget the additional risks that are present in the winter months, especially for older adults.. Treacherous conditions, inadequate heating, and poor general wellbeing practices are just some of the factors that can catch us afoul. So, in the spirit of the giving season, we are here to give you our top 5 tips for staying healthy and well this holiday season.
Slips, trips and falls
Slips, trips and falls are an obvious health hazard for the elderly and are known to be the leading cause of hospital visits in people aged 65 or over. Age UK report that an average of 250,000 elderly persons visit the hospital after a fall each year, and this number is only increasing. The prevalence of serious falls among the elderly is caused by the combination of any number of factors in varying locations – and this risk is dramatically heightened within the winter months. Common hazards such as uneven outdoor terrain will often become covered with invisible layers of ice, and those with restricted movement may find that their disabilities become more pronounced in this season. Many who live with restricted movement may not have correctly prepared for the change of season and can find themselves wearing improper footwear and using inadequate walking sticks.
To properly prepare for winter hazards, one must first consider all of the changing factors in the environment around them. From garden paths to pavements, all outdoor surfaces are at risk of becoming covered in ice. To mitigate the risk of icy falls, replace your looser Autumn footwear with shoes or boots with a sturdy grip and good ankle support. If you use a cane or walking stick, check that the rubber sole affixed to the bottom is secure and still has a good grip. Although these factors are important to consider, the most important factor in ensuring you avoid a fall this winter is to be vigilant of your footing. Keep a watchful eye on the pathway in front of you and actively remove clutter that blocks the pathways around your home. These tips are also just as relevant indoors as they are outdoors – take care in keeping the floor of your house clutter-free and make sure that your comfy winter slippers aren’t going to make you fall afoul this winter.
Staying safe on the roads
There is a common misconception among drivers that the elderly driving population poses the greatest risk to others on the roads – however this simply isn’t true. In 2011 the Department for Transport published a report on traffic accident rates as categorised by age groupings. The 10,974 accidents that involved drivers aged 70 or over paled in comparison to the 35,953 accidents recorded in drivers aged 24 or under. However, one memorable statistic that this report found was that all drivers, no matter the age group, were drastically more likely to be involved in a collision in the winter months as opposed to the rest of the year. So - what causes this and what can we do to stay safe?
Winter roads often befall the same issues as pavements, and our advice is much the same. To ensure you maintain traction in icy conditions, lower your speed and stay focused on the road ahead of you – advice that needs to be heard by drivers of all ages. Before the cold fully sets in, make sure that your car is well equipped for both winter conditions as well as winter emergencies. Whilst it is obviously important to stock up on antifreeze and windscreen scrapers, it is also prudent to ensure that you are protected in the unlikely event of an accident or breakdown. This means keeping a few spare blankets in the boot, a first aid kit, and small provisions of spare food and water. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you are failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
How important is it to stay warm?
Keeping yourself warm when both inside and outside is crucial in ensuring you stay safe and healthy this winter. It is not uncommon for people to think that the cold is simply an inconvenience, however it can pose serious risks to your health. When the ambient temperature around us drops to below 8C, our risk of heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, and hypothermia greatly increase. On top of this, remaining cold for an extended period of time puts a great deal of stress on the heart and surrounding circulatory system – as well as decreasing the effectiveness of the immune system.
Certain areas of the body have the evolutionary trait of quickly expelling heat, allowing us to stay cool in warm environments – these are the head, the groin and our armpits. It is prudent to ensure that these areas stay well covered and insulated all winter long, if you’re inside or outside. This can easily be achieved by wearing a hat, wearing thick layers around your groin, and by keeping your elbows down whilst outside to shield your armpits. If you are unsure of what the weather may bring, it is always advisable to bring a waterproof jacket. If your underlayers do become wet, be sure to change out of them into fresh garments immediately as wearing wet clothes can quickly induce hypothermia and potentially even frostbite.
Although it goes without saying, it is of course equally as important to keep the inside of your home warm. The NHS has stated that ideal room temperatures for 65 and over sit around 18C in the bedroom and 21C throughout the rest of the house.
The often-overlooked dangers of Carbon Monoxide poisoning
If you heat your home with a fuel-fed device, such as a traditional fireplace, a wooden or gas stove, or any large gas appliance - you must take extra care to ensure that they are being cleaned regularly. If these appliances aren’t cleaned regularly and don’t have sufficient ventilation, they can quickly leak a deadly by-product of burning fuel – carbon monoxide. Before the season begins, have an inspector come out to check the safety and age of your appliance as well as any surrounding smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. If you ever suddenly find yourself becoming light-headed, nauseous, or confused in the presence of one of these appliances, evacuate the house immediately and seek medical attention whilst remaining in an open-air space.
Supplement your immune system
It goes without saying – Winter is the season of illnesses. Whether its the common cold, an endlessly streaming nose, or the ever-looming threat of catching the flu – you’re almost certain to be under the weather before Christmas arrives. Although a good supply of supplements can be beneficial all year round, certain vitamins and supplements are especially useful in staving off illness in the winter months.
In recent years, modern medicine has become increasingly concerned that we are in the midst of a nationwide Vitamin D deficiency – and for good reason. Vitamin D is important in maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles, and a deficiency in the vitamin has been linked to low moods, depression and a weakened immune system. As we naturally absorb the majority of Vitamin D through direct sunlight, it is incredibly important to ensure you get enough during the winter through either a rich diet or regular supplements. It is estimated we need around 10μg (micrograms) a day to repel seasonal depression and maintain a healthy immune system.
Vitamin B shares similar properties with Vitamin D and is well-known to help fight mental fatigue in the winter months – particularly anxiety and depression. Vitamin B represents a collection different yet related vitamins. Some of the most commonly supplemented are Vitamins B6, B7, and B12.
Good amount of Vitamin C is the cornerstone of a healthy diet and well-oiled immune system. Vitamin C helps us to keep our skin and cells healthy as well as benefiting a wide range of processes within the body. Fortunately, this vitamin is abundant in many types of fruits and vegetables such as oranges, peppers, and the national Christmas mascot – brussels sprouts! The NHS states that the average person requires a minimum of 40mg of Vitamin C a day, however as we don’t expect to encounter negative side effects unless we consume over 1,000mg a day, it is still recommended to take a small supplement each day.
Please consult a medical professional before starting a new supplement regime.
Do you feel well-prepared for winter?
We cherish the winter months for bringing our communities together through the excitement of the holiday season, however, we often neglect the hidden dangers that can arise as the nights become longer and colder. However, with proper preparation and by following our advice, the holiday season can stay as carefree and jovial as any other season.
If you are concerned about staying safe in the cold winter months and would like an extra measure of assurance, we have a large catalogue of personal alarms that are designed to ensure your safety at any hour throughout the short days and long nights. In the event of an accident or a fall, or if you feel that you require medical assistance, our alarms seamlessly connect you with one of our responsive operators who will quickly get you the help you need.
We are committed to providing excellence in everyday care for the elderly and greatly enjoy writing pieces such as these that can bring reassurance to the elderly and their families. If you’re interested in learning more about staying safe this winter and would like to know more about our personal alarm systems, do not hesitate to contact us today.