4 Tips for a Safer Winter

blog-picWhat do you do when you find yourself stuck in a winter wonderland?

You know what we’re talking about. Watching the snow as it piles up in your driveway. Carrying the space heater from your bedroom to the living room in every effort to keep warm. Being stuck inside so long, you decide to brave the cold. You venture out, shovel in hand, to tackle the driveway only to slip on your front steps.  Welcome to winter.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you enjoy the winter season-or simply get by.

1.      Avoid injury while shoveling. 

According to a 17-year study conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital: “An average of 11,500 snow shoveling-related injuries and medical emergencies were treated in the U.S. emergency departments each year from 1990 to 2006” Here are some ways we can lower the risk of injury while shoveling:

· Dress appropriately: wear layers of clothes that are both water repellent and light. This will both ventilate and insulate your body. Remember- never go out to shovel without a hat!

· Shoveling is an exercise. To better prepare your body, warm up with stretching and light movement for about 10 minutes before heading out to take on the driveway.

· When shoveling, push snow instead of lifting it and if you must, lift with your knees.  Do not throw snow over your shoulder, this requires your body to move in a way that strains your spine.

2.      Preventing Falls

The CDC found that each year 2.8 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. Falls among older adults are worrisome because the risks associated with injury are much greater.  Here are common causes for falls, and ways to prevent them:

· Rapid weight loss, leading to a loss of muscle and bone mass, cause fragile bones that are easily broken.

· Neurodegenerative diseases can increase the risk for a fall. Someone with dementia may appear perfectly healthy and very capable but have trouble multitasking. This causes them to become distracted and prone to more trips and falls.

· Make sure all sidewalks and walkways are clear of snow and ice.

· Remove any obstacles or any potential hazards in the house; ex: throw rugs that may cause trips and falls, or clutter on the stairs and other high traffic areas.

· Watch alcohol intake- new medications may cause different side effects and reactions. Consult your doctor regarding medications and drinking alcohol.

· Decrease fall risk by increasing confidence- physical therapy can be used to increase strength, endurance, balance and thus overall confidence in ability.

3.      Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, weakness, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, loss of consciousness. Here are some hints to keep your home safe:

· Have your chimneys and flues inspected.

· Use carbon monoxide detectors.

· Never use a gas stove, or charcoal grill to heat your home.

· When you cook, stay in the kitchen while oven/burners are on, when you are finished cooking make sure oven/burners are off.

· Keep fire extinguishers in your home.

· Inspect electrical cords for damage and wear.

· Give space heaters 3 feet of clearance from nearby objects, people and pets. Turn off your space heater at night and when you leave the room.

4.      Wintertime Depression

Wintertime depression can be caused by many things: in the winter there are more hours of darkness than light, the loss of a friend, isolation, lack of exercise, memory loss and Vitamin D deficiency.  It can cause a change in mood, behavior and genuine level of enjoyment.  According to the National Institute of Health “SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is more likely to affect women and people who live in northern areas where the sun is not as strong or constant.”

How can we combat wintertime depression? Here are a few things you can do to fight off the winter blues:

· Exposure to natural sunlight.

· Exercise! Regular exercise produces endorphins that can balance out serotonin deficits that cause feelings of depression.

· The safest way to combat Vitamin D deficiency is eating foods fortified with Vitamin D like juice and milk.

· Use a lightbox- it gives off light, similar to sunlight, and works to decrease melatonin and regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin and epinephrine.

· Engaging in social activities and volunteering.

· Consider a retreat stay or a move to a community setting, where you can partake in ongoing social programming and socialization.

If you or someone you know could benefit from a Northbridge Community, stop by nextgenerationseniors.com to learn more about your options.

Please comment with any tips you may have for making it through a New England winter, as well as any winter stories you would like to share!


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