Tips for Keeping Safe Over the Holidays

winter senior safety

The holidays should bring love and laughter. It’s a time for family, friends, and all the wonderful things that come along with the winter season itself. Staying as safe as possible during the holidays is the key to being able to relax and fully enjoy the time. Let’s talk about what it takes to stay aware of the dangers that can be inherent with wintertime, especially those that affect us more as we get older.

When the Weather is Kind of Frightful…

For many of us, the holidays go hand-in-hand with colder weather. And did you know that cold weather itself can cause problems for the elderly? According to the National Institute on Aging, there are many reasons why seniors can’t tolerate the cold as well as they once did, including losing body heat faster and not being as aware of it happening. Given that, it can be easy for seniors to experience hypothermia, or their body temperature dropping dangerously below 95 degrees. 

To avoid the potential of hypothermia, it’s important to bundle up when you go outside. Warm layers, sturdy shoes, a hat and scarf, and mittens for your hands can work wonders. But did you know that you can get hypothermia indoors if your home is not warm enough? Make sure you keep the heat at a level that will keep you comfortable and safe, which is usually at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit[1].

Get to Your Destination Safely

When you’re out and about during the holidays, you might be out in cold temperatures – and you might also encounter snow and ice that often comes with the winter months. Staying steady on your feet is incredibly important to avoid falls, so take some time to consider fall prevention strategies before venturing out onto icy surfaces.

·         Keep walkways clear of ice and snow.

·         Beware of black ice, which is simply ice that you can’t see – it is especially common in shaded or dark areas, where there isn’t much visibility anyway.

·         Wear footwear with good traction.

·         Walk carefully over ice and snow. Take short steps and go slowly.

·         Hold onto what you can as you walk. That means always using the railings on stairs and holding onto your car door as you get in and out of the vehicle.

·         If you feel your balance starting to waver, stop for a moment. Get your bearings and then move forward again – slowly.

Remember to be safe on the road, too. Always have a full tank of gas, keep your vehicle maintenance up to date, avoid back roads, and try to always travel with a companion. You should also have emergency supplies in your vehicle, such as a warm blanket, bottled water, non-perishable snacks, and other necessities.

Having a medical alert watch or pendant can go a long way toward keeping you safe when you are out and about. If you fall down on the ice or snow, help is a button push away. If your vehicle breaks down or you suffer an accident, that same personal emergency button alarm can help you get help right away.

Beware the Seasonal Villains – COVID and Flu

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but unfortunately, it’s also the season for sniffles and sneezes. Now that the world has “opened back up” since COVID shut things down for a while, it can be easy to think that the worst of COVID is behind us – and perhaps it is. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get the virus now, or that you can’t also get influenza, a mainstay of the winter season.

Protecting yourself from COVID is extremely important for the elderly. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, those over the age of 65 currently make up only about 16% of the United States population but account for a whopping 75% of all deaths from COVID. And up to 85% of all deaths from the flu occur in seniors aged 65 and older[2].

Here’s how to stay safe from these illnesses during the winter months:

·         Wash your hands frequently. And learn how to do it properly. Wash for at least 20 seconds each time.

·         Wear a mask. If your immune system is compromised or you are one of the 85% of seniors who have a chronic health condition[3], it’s a good idea to wear a well-fitted mask when in a crowded area. 

·         Maintain social distancing. Though it’s largely ignored these days, staying six feet away from others is a good way to avoid all sorts of illnesses – not just COVID or the flu.

·         Be careful what you touch. One of the easiest ways to catch a cold or any other virus is by touching a surface on which the virus is waiting, and then touching your face. Did you know that we touch our faces an average of 50 times per hour[4]? That’s about once a minute! Protect yourself by being more cognizant of what you touch—doorknobs, railings, gas pumps, grocery carts or baskets—and wash your hands frequently or use sanitizer.

Being proactive about your health is the best way to protect it. To that end, make sure to get the vaccines your doctor recommends, including those for the flu, COVID, and pneumonia. If you’re feeling under the weather, stay home! But also stay in contact with your doctor to make sure that you’re doing all the right things to stay healthy if you do have an illness.

And remember that some respiratory illnesses can make you feel short of breath, fatigued, and otherwise unwell. Having an emergency response system at your fingertips can provide the peace of mind you need if you happen to get sick and have significant symptoms.


Give Yourself the Gift of Good Health and Security

Even when you are comfortable in your home, accidents can happen. As journalist Mary Schmich famously said, “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.[5]” It’s important to remember that we can never predict when accidents occur. And of course, when it comes to emergencies, you never know what it might be. Regardless, a single moment can change things forever.

So how do you protect yourself? Though a medical alert pendant can’t prevent you from falling, it can alleviate some of the most serious consequences of a fall. When you wear a medical alert wireless device with fall detection, you can even be rest assured that if you do fall down, the device is your ideal companion – it can call for help and get you the help you need, even if you are unable to summon help yourself.

Why does getting help as soon as possible matter so much? A “long lie” is when a person falls and can’t get up for an hour or more[6]. Those who lie on the floor for a long period of time can experience delayed medical treatment, hypothermia, dehydration, muscle and tissue damage, and so much more. In fact, a study of older adults who suffered a long lie found that half of them passed away in the following six months, even if they died of issues that had nothing to do with the fall itself[7].

It’s clear that having a way to get help quickly – which an affordable medical alert device can help you do – can keep you much safer this holiday season and all year through.