Winter weather is challenging for the elderly, especially for those with limited mobility or other health issues. The drop in temperatures can cause health issues and going outdoors without taking the precautions could result in falls and injuries. People with serious mobility problems and using mobility equipment such as wheelchairs or knee walkers are particularly vulnerable to falls or accidents during severe winter weather. Making minor additions or changes can minimize the risk of an accident and create a dramatically safer environment. Here are some safety precautions that can make life easier for older adults in winter:
- Clear snow and ice on sidewalks – Clear walkways and handrails of snow and ice so that it’s safe to enter and exit the home. Rock salt or ice melt can be used to keep driveways clean. Also, make sure that dryer vents and gutters are cleared.
- Proper clothing – Frostbite and hypothermia are real threats during winter. Dressing in layers helps to keep the heat inside and avoid hypothermia. Keep your heads, ears and hands fully covered to prevent frostbite. Wear shoes with proper traction so that you do not slip on the ice. Use grip driving gloves to keep hands warm and prevent slipping when sleet or ice sticks to wheelchairs or other surfaces.
- Wet floor – Remove your shoes immediately after returning home from the snowy outdoors. The snow can melt and leave puddles of water at various places, making the floor slippery and posing a high risk for falls.
- Walking – Adding a metal grip at the bottom of a walking cane increases its stability and prevents it from slipping on patches of snow.
- Get snow tires for the wheelchair – Installing snow tires installed on wheelchairs can give them extra traction. These tires are made from soft rubber and provide grip to prevent the wheelchair from getting stuck in the snow or sliding on the ice.
- Install an outdoor stair lift – During winter season, outdoor stairs become extremely dangerous and pose serious falling hazard. Installing an outdoor stair chair lift would help. These systems provide access from the front door or porch to the side walk or garden and prevent slips and falls that can occur when using the stairs.
- Have a power back-up source – Power back-up facility is important for those people who depend on motorized wheelchair or any other accessibility device. An ideal solution would be a portable generator.
Dealing with winter weather is certainly a challenging task for the elderly and people using mobility care equipment. Following these general safety tips can help.