Seniors can prepare now to stay healthy this winter

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by Jessica Adams

Winter is approaching and as the temperature drops, it’s important for older adults to prepare for the potential risks that cold weather can bring.

For the thousands of seniors living in the Northwest, winter may pose a number of risks. Reports have shown much higher incidences of injury and illness due to icy sidewalks, cold and dry air, flu viruses and in many cases, hypothermia.

According to the Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of more than 40 Puget Sound not-for-profit and public organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of older adults, older adults should keep these tips in mind to help ensure safety and optimum health this winter.

  • Older adults are more susceptible to hypothermia, which occurs when too much heat escapes from the body. It is important to dress warmly and keep dry, but equally important to remember good nutrition. Food provides the fuel we need to keep warm. Hot food and warm drinks are best to warm the body.
  • When going outdoors, remember to dress warmly. Wear layered, loose-fitting clothing and mittens. When possible, wear a hat to protect against heat loss since close to half of all body heat is lost through the head.
  • You can prevent many winter hazards simply by planning ahead. Before winter arrives, check all the windows and doors in your home for cracked or worn sealants. A new application of caulking may be needed; in a pinch, staple a sheet of plastic tarp over really old windows.
  • Talk to your electric or gas companies to see if you can be put on a level billing system that averages your energy payments equally over 12 months. This doesn’t save money, but it does help to budget during the heating season and prevent your heat from being shut off.
  • To avoid slips and falls, wear non-skid boots or other shoes with plenty of traction.
  • Cold weather can put extra strain on the heart. When doing winter chores such as shoveling snow, do some warm-up exercises first and take many breaks.
  • To conserve energy, heat only those rooms that you use. Close off the attic, garage, basement, spare bedrooms or storage areas. But don’t overdo your money-saving efforts: keep your thermostat set to at least 65 degrees to prevent hypothermia.
  • Shift energy use from peak to off-peak times. For example, do small things like running your dishwasher after 9 p.m.
  • When using a portable heater, plug the heater directly into an outlet, not to an extension cord. Make sure the outlet and wiring are in good condition. Keep the area around the heater clear of furniture, newspaper or other flammable materials and take special care to avoid tripping over cords.

Many government, nonprofit and community organizations offer energy assistance programs to low-income older adults during the winter months. If you have questions about where to turn for assistance, ways to reduce risks during the winter, or anything else related to life as an older adult, call HAP’s free and confidential help line at 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464) or e-mail hap@seniorservices.org. The Healthy Aging Partnership is generally supported by its partner agencies.

 

Read More: http://www.4elders.org/tips/articles/winter-tips.htm

 

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