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Article Archive >> Senior Life

Winter Safety Tips for Senior

Winter Safety Tips for Senior

As tough as the cold weather is on everyone, it's particularly dangerous for senior citizens. Seniors can be especially susceptible to moderately colder temperatures even while indoors. To help reduce the potential for hypothermia, the National Institute of Health recommends that seniors set their thermostats for at least 68 to 70 degrees in the winter. Seniors should have an understanding of hypothermia and it's effects on their body. Hypothermia is a condition in which a person's body temperature is abnormally low, typically at a dangerous level. Symptoms of hypothermia might be misconstrued as normal side effects of a cold winter. However, hypothermia can be fatal. Symptoms can include: excessive shivering, loss of energy, feelings of confusion and sleepiness, cold skin that is ashy or pale, slowed breathing, and/or reduced heart rate.
For seniors living on a fixed income keeping the temperature at 70 degrees may be unrealistic. Low-income seniors may benefit from the Weatherization Assistance Program or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). For Senior living in the Washington County area you can call the Washington County Community Action Council at 301-797-4161 to inquire about these programs. Additionally there are a wide range of no-cost or low-cost strategies that can increase the comfort of your home.
* When heating a large house, you may be able to save energy by reducing the heat in unused portions of your home. Try creating a "warm room" in areas where you frequently spend time. Turn down thermostats in closed - off rooms but remember during frigid weather to provide enough heat to those rooms to prevent frozen water pipes.
* Your favorite chair will seem that much more cozy when it's placed in the warmest spot in the room. Try out different furniture arrangements to move the furniture you use most away from drafts.
* Reverse the spin on your ceiling fan and set it on low to re-circulate warm air down into the living area. Many ceiling fans have a reverse switch that will push down the warmer air on the ceiling to help you stay warmer.
* Use drapes that are insulated consider closing them at night and on cloudy days to reduce heat loss through windows.
* Prune any trees or shrubs near windows that block the sun, especially on the south side of your home.
* Vacuum heat registers and check to make sure registers, radiators and cold air returns aren't blocked by furniture or drapes. Air must circulate through them for maximum efficiency.
* Hot meals and beverages can provide both warmth and energy during the cold winter months. A cup of your favorite hot beverage will even do double duty, warming the hands as your hold it and the body as you drink it. Avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages - they cause your body to lose heat rapidly. Instead drink warm, sweet beverages or broth to help maintain your body temperature. If you have any dietary restrictions, be sure to ask your doctor.
* A simple tip that is often overlooked is to dress in layers. Multiple thin layers are great as they can be easily removed to prevent overheating.
* Wear warm footwear - fleece slippers are a great choice - around the house to help keep your feet warm. Look for ones with non-skid bottoms to prevent slips and falls. Your head can also be a significant source of heat loss; for extra warmth, wear a warm, comfortable hat.
Try out some of these low-cost tips to keep your home warm and draft free.
* Caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows are low-cost measures that can reduce drafts and make your home tighter. Seal doors and windows with draft reducing weather-stripping and door sweeps.
* Storm windows help to reduce air movement into and out of existing windows, thus helping to reduce heating costs. As an alternative, plastic sheeting can be attached over the whole window to provide a layer of insulation without blocking daylight.
* Make a draft stopper; also know as a door snake, for your doors and windows. They can be placed at the base of doors and windows and are easy to make. For a no-cost fix, try rolling up a bath towel and tucking it up against the door. (Make sure you are not blocking your exit so you can leave the room quickly in case of an emergency).
* Maintain your current heating system to ensure safety and efficiency. Change or clean furnace filters according to manufacturer's recommendations.
* While you prepare and clean your heating systems don't forget to check your smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors. One good investment is a Carbon Monoxide detector. The "silent killer," as it is called, is especially dangerous since it has no scent or visible presence. Those with a fireplace or gas furnace should be particularly watchful of this deadly gas in their homes.
* If you are using portable or space heaters. Remember to practice safety! Keep a few things in mind...
(DOUBLE INDENT)Make sure your heater has a timer, or unplug it when it's not in use.
(DOUBLE INDENT)Plug the heater into an outlet never use an extension cord and take care to set the cord out of the way.
(DOUBLE INDENT)Only purchase newer models with safety features.
(DOUBLE INDENT)Clear the area around the heater of any furniture, draperies, paper or other combustibles.
Winter auto safety is one that is typically overlooked but if you live in a cold climate have your vehicle serviced and winterized so it's ready for winter driving and winter road conditions. Some specific things to be checked are:
* Tires: Check the tire air pressure and make sure your tires have sufficient tread.
* Radiator: Have the anti-freeze levels checked.
* Belts: Inspect the belts and hoses for cracks or leaks.
* Oil: Ask your mechanic about switching to a thinner grade of engine oil for better performance in colder temperatures.
* Wipers: Inspect the windshield wipers and wiper fluid to ensure better visibility.
* Battery: Make sure the battery is fully charged.
If a senior citizen living independently is part of your circle of family or friends pack a lunch and head over the river and through the woods to their home today. For additional information on weatherization tips check out EnergySaver.gov; www.msnbc.msn.com; & www.wwlp.com.

This article was provided by Easter Seals Greater Washington-Baltimore Region. Contact information: 101 East Baltimore Street, Hagerstown, MD 21740. 301-745-3828. 301-745-3829 (fax). www.gwbr.easterseals.com

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