It’s not just cold this winter — it’s freezing. With temperatures throughout the diocese plummeting below zero in January, parishioners —especially senior citizens — should take extra precautions to avoid serious illness and injury.
The Sun and Home Instead Senior Care Network, a provider of non-medical in-home care services for seniors, offer these tips to keep everyone safe during inclement weather conditions.
• Be prepared: Major winter storms can quickly bring several inches of ice and snow and cause major power outages. To prepare for a power outage, seniors should keep an emergency kit handy that includes canned and non-perishable food and water for several days, several days of daily medications, blankets, batteries, a radio, flashlights and a list of emergency contacts.
• Charge it: During the winter season, seniors should always keep cell phones, tablets and radios charged for use in an emergency.
• Dress for success: The key to keeping warm during the winter season in Central New York is layering. Whether inside or out, dressing in layers can help to avoid hypothermia. Each year more than half of the deaths from hypothermia occur in seniors age 65 and over and happen both inside and outside the home. Outdoor clothing should include shoes/boots with non-skid soles; sweaters layered under a winter coat and jacket; hats, gloves and a scarf. Indoor layering should include sweaters and sweatshirts, warm socks with non-skid soles and a soft wool hat.
• Check heat and insulation: Although saving money is important, the thermostat should never be kept lower than 65 degrees in the winter months. As a person ages, metabolism and circulation slows, decreasing the ability to maintain a normal body temperature and increasing the risk of hypothermia. The signs of hypothermia include confusion, slurring of speech, drowsiness or low energy, difficulty making decisions, shivering, clumsiness or lack of coordination.
• Install safety devices: Mount handrails on outside walls for safety. Check smoke detectors and install carbon monoxide detectors near all bedrooms. Check cords for space heaters and replace those cords that are frayed or damaged. Keep heaters away from cloth and paper.
• Safeguard canes and walkers: Check rubber tips on canes and walkers and replace them if they are worn smooth to avoid falls and injuries on slippery surfaces.
• Request help: Arrange snow removal service, friends or family members to properly clear ice and snow, and salt and sand sidewalks. Schedule phone calls to check on seniors during inclement weather.
• Hydrate: A healthy amount of liquids should be consumed every day to avoid dehydration. Seniors should drink water consistently and consume foods containing high amounts of water such as fruits, soups and vegetables to avoid dehydration, which puts a greater strain on the heart. A doctor should be contacted if signs of dehydration occur, including confusion, difficulty walking, dizziness or headache, dry or sticky mouth and tongue, rapid heart rate, inability to sweat or produce tears, change in blood pressure upon standing, and constipation or decrease in urination.
• When in doubt, don’t go out: If the weather report is calling for ice, snow or frigid temperatures, staying indoors can ensure a person’s safety. For parishioners unable to attend Sunday Mass due to weather conditions, televised Mass is available; check the Sun weekly for channels and times. The Mass is also available at youtube.com/user/syrdio.