The beauty of winter is a picturesque backdrop for a walk or fun activity or sport like skiing, sledding or ice skating. However, a winter wonderland can turn into danger pretty quickly if safety measures aren’t practiced. The elderly, in particular, are susceptible to hypothermia, falls, carbon monoxide poisoning, car accidents or other hazardous situations that often occur during winter months.
If you are elderly, or care for an elderly loved one, The American Geriatrics Society offers valuable information and a number of safety tips.
• Recognizing it: Lots of shivering; cold skin that is pale or ashy; feeling very tired, confused and sleepy; feeling weak; problems walking; slowed breathing or heart rate. Call 911 if you or someone you know might have hypothermia.
• Avoiding it: Stay indoors when it’s very cold or windy outside. If you are outside go indoors when you start shivering. Stay dry and wear layers of clothing, as well as a hat, gloves, coat and scarf to cover your mouth and nose and protect your lungs from cold air.
• Recognizing it: Skin that’s white or ashy (for people with darker skin) or grayish-yellow; skin that feels hard or waxy; numbness. If you think you or someone else has frostbite, call for medical help immediately. A person with frostbite may also have hypothermia, so check for those symptoms, too.
• Avoiding it: Cover up all parts of your body when you go outside. If your skin turns red or dark or starts hurting, go inside right away. If frostbite occurs place frostbitten parts of your body in warm (not hot) water.
Snow Shoveling Injuries
Your heart works harder in the cold to keep you warm. Activities such as shoveling snow might put too much strain on the heart for people with heart disease. Others at risk are those with osteoporosis or those who have problems with balance. Ask your doctor if it is safe to shovel snow.
Icy and snowy conditions make it easier for seniors to slip and fall in the winter. Practice the following to play it safe:
• Carefully shovel steps and walkways to your home or hire someone to shovel for you.
• Do not walk on icy or snowy sidewalks.
• Look for sidewalks that are dry and have been cleared.
• Wear boots with non-skid soles so you are less likely to slip when you walk.
• If you use a cane, replace the rubber tip before it is worn smooth . You might also buy an ice pick-like attachment that fits onto the end of the cane to help keep you from slipping when you walk.
Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Fireplaces, wood and gas stoves can leak dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide. These and other appliances, such as kerosene and electric heaters, also can be fire hazards. Follow these steps to safety:
• Have chimneys and flues inspected yearly and cleaned when necessary.
• Open a window when using a kerosene stove.
• Put a smoke detector and battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in areas where you use fireplaces, wood stoves, or kerosene heaters.
• Make sure space heaters are at least 3 feet away from anything that might catch fire, such as curtains, bedding and furniture.
• Keep a fire extinguisher that can be used for a variety of types of fires, including chemical fires, in areas where you use fireplaces, wood stoves and kerosene heaters.
• Never try to heat your home using a gas stove, charcoal grill, or other stove not made for home heating.
Adults 65 and older are involved in more car accidents per mile driven than those in nearly all other age groups. Because winter driving can be more hazardous you should:
• Have your car winterized before the bad weather hits. This means having the antifreeze,
tires, and windshield wipers checked and changed if necessary.
• Take a cell phone with you when driving in bad weather. Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive, so they can call if you are late.
• Do not drive on icy roads, overpasses, or bridges if possible.
• Stock your car with basic emergency supplies such as a first aid kit, blankets, extra warm clothes, booster cables, windshield scraper, shovel, rock salt, bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow in case your wheels get stuck), a container of water and canned or dried foods and can opener, and a flashlight.
For more information visit www.healthinaging.org.
If you have an elderly loved one who has been injured by negligence, one of our knowledgeable attorneys at Powell Law will be happy to help you. Since 1906, our PA personal injury lawyers have successfully represented thousands of clients in serious personal injury cases, including PA car accidents, tractor trailer accidents, motorcycle accidents, PA medical malpractice, PA worker’s comp, slip and fall, product-related injuries and Social Security disability claims. Our PA criminal defense attorneys represent defendants in all types of summary, misdemeanor and felony cases ranging from drunk driving cases to major crimes in both state and federal courts.
Powell Law is Northeastern Pennsylvania’s oldest PA personal injury law firm. It was established by our grandfather, Attorney James J. Powell Sr., on the principles of honor, integrity and trust. For three generations, we have upheld those principles every day – in every case.
We have offices in Scranton, Stroudsburg, Taylor and Moscow. Call us toll free at 800-290-7707.