Helping Seniors with Winter Hazards

Dear Baxter,

The forecast calls for a huge snowstorm, and my mother lives alone. She is having a tough time with the bitter cold weather as it is, and the snow that they are calling for can be dangerous. Do you have any suggestions to help her deal with the winter hazards?

Thanks for your help,

Warry Duboutter


Dear Warry,

The cold winter weather we are experiencing and the snowstorm we are expecting can present severe challenges and potential hazards for seniors. Luckily, there are strategies that seniors and caregivers can employ to help avoid cold weather hazards:

• Falls on the ice: Slips are a major risk for seniors in winter, so it’s important to wear shoes with traction, such as warm boots with rubber soles.

 Driving: Seniors should avoid driving when road conditions are bad, and if they must drive, they should make sure snow-tires are installed and warm blankets and food are available in the car, should the vehicle become stranded or disabled.

• Hypothermia: According to Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 50% of hypothermia deaths are among seniors. Older adults who do venture outside in cold weather should make sure to layer their clothing and dress warmly. Seniors should keep their thermostats above 65 degrees, and seek assistance if they lose heating.

• Social Isolation: If your mother has been spending a lot of time alone at home due to inclement weather, try to visit her often and spend time with her in her home. Arrange transportation to the local senior center, your mother’s church or synagogue, or other places where she can socialize.

 Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or “the Wintertime Blues”: Many seniors experience a decrease in happiness and energy during the winter, which is caused by decreased daytime light in winter. This phenomenon is known as “seasonal affective disorder” or “SAD.” During times of year when daytime is shorter, seniors are at highest risk. Open curtains and blinds during winter to let natural lighting in. Seniors experiencing depression should of course talk to their doctors.

 Sundowning: Seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia sometimes experience sundowners syndrome, which may include increased memory loss, agitation, confusion, and even anger during the evening hours. Sundowning is often exacerbated during winter, because the season’s low light can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms. To help seniors experiencing sundowning, establish a routine, let light into the home, and promote a relaxing, quiet environment in the evening.

We send you and your mother warm winter wishes!


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