• October 8, 2018 /  Basics, Miscelleaneous

    Staying Safe in Extreme Temperatures
    Extreme temperatures are among the worst silent killers, as we often underestimate how dangerous they are. Even in areas that are notorious for extreme temperatures, people will still be unaware of the warning signs from their health that life-threatening damage is being done from the extreme heat or cold. Furthermore, many seniors are unaware of the specific safety precautions they especially need to take when in extremely high or low temperatures. We’ll discuss some pointers to keep in mind when preparing for drastic weather changes.

    Extreme Heat

    The heat causes fatal health problems for nearly 200 people in the United States every summer. Most of those 200 people are over the age of 50, as the aging body is not able to handle extreme heat as well as younger bodies. Here are some ways to stay safe when the summer is just too hot.

    • Air Conditioning– When a heat wave hits, you’ll want to stay inside with air conditioning on. Staying indoors will keep your body from overheating and suffering health ailments like heat stroke and dehydration. If you don’t have air conditioning at your home, then try going to the movies, the mall, or the community center.
    • Avoid the Sun– Direct sunlight during extreme heat, only compounds the harmful effects. The sun can wear out the body much faster, to a point of losing orientation and fainting. If you must be outside, try to stay in the shade, or do your activity in the evening or early morning, when the sun is not as draining.
    • Hydration– Your body needs plenty of water to properly function. Once the body is dehydrated for an extended period of time, then organ failure becomes imminent. It is very important to drink fluids so as not to fall victim to the sun. Do not drink caffeine or alcohol, as they will dry you out faster.
    • Wear Breathable Clothing– Your clothing can have a huge effect on your internal temperature. Wear clothing that will allow sweat to evaporate, which allows your body to keep cool. Loose, light colored clothing will go a long way in helping your body to withstand the effects. Wear a hat and sunglasses as well, to avoid sunburn and to protect your eyes.
    • Sunburn– As mentioned above, it can be very easy to get sunburn during extreme heat waves. Sunburn can exasperate skin cancer in the long term, and be very uncomfortable in the short term. Always wear a hat, preferably a wide brimmed hat, when outside. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Always put on sunscreen of at least SPF 30, preferably 50 for good protection against the sun. It is advisable to reapply the sunscreen every two hours that you are outside.
    • How to Cool Down– Take showers or baths that are cold or tepid, as the water will cool down the blood in your veins, which will in turn cool your entire body. Hand towels that are soaked in cold water or wrapped around ice packs and placed on areas where there is a lot of blood flow will also cool you down rapidly. Areas like the neck, wrists, and armpits are ideal.

    Extreme Cold

    The cold is just as taxing on the body as the extreme heat is. Seniors are much more susceptible to losing body heat in the cold compared to those who are younger. The aged body is also less aware of when it is getting too cold, meaning an older person may stay out in the cold longer than they’re actually safely able to do. Seniors can begin to suffer from hypothermia much sooner than younger people. Here are a few ways for seniors to stay safe in the extreme cold.

    • 68°F Minimum on Heater– Sometimes it’s tempting to turn the heater down to 60-65°F to save on utility costs, but this can be life threatening during extremely cold days. A heater lower than 68° will not properly heat the house, and as mentioned earlier, an older body does not signal the brain when it is too cold. A senior living alone could fall into fatal hypothermia, as they are not keeping their body warm enough to function properly.
    • Dress Warmly– Again, an older body will not warn you when it is too cold. If you don’t feel cold, you’ll still want to wear a sweater, long pants, and socks to keep warm. Keeping your body warm is of utmost importance to avoid hypothermia. Even when going to bed, be sure to be fully bundled.
    • Insulate the House– Make sure your windows are not drafty, and that they are shut tight and locked, curtains drawn. Install weather stripping if possible. A drafty house will sap out any heat from the heaters, raising utility bills and making it unsafe for you.
    • Stay Dry– If you go outside and get snow on you, be sure to change clothing as soon as possible as wet clothing saps you of your body heat.

    Be Prepared for Temperature Changes

    Aging makes regulating body temperature more challenging during hot and cold spells. Seasonal temperature changes and activities once taken for granted pose potential problems with declining reserves, chronic conditions, and medications. But with careful forethought, you can remain safe and healthy no matter the weather!

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  • December 1, 2017 /  Basics

    How Seniors Can Stay Safe in the Winter
    Cold weather can be a bother for anyone, but for seniors it can be dangerous. They are particularly vulnerable to complications from winter weather, with the flu and falls on the top of the list. It’s important to be aware of the many hazards winter can bring. Here’s what to do, and not to do, to stay safe!

    DO:

    Do prevent falls in icy conditions

    Preventing falls is critical. Keep driveways, porches, ramps and sidewalks clear of snow and ice. Put down salt to melt the ice and to provide extra stability. Also, be sure to wear rubber-soled boots or shoes. In addition, add non-skid pads to your shoes, as well as new treads on canes and walkers. You can ask friends, family, or caregivers for help with any of these.

    Do clear the driveway regularly

    Enlist the help of a neighbor or hire a local service that will plow and shovel on a regular basis. Also, if possible, invest in a good snow blower. Manual snow shoveling is strenuous, time-consuming and sometimes dangerous work. Many seniors will prefer to ask someone else for help with this task.

    Do make sure that your house is well heated

    Before the start of winter, you should make sure the furnace or gas heaters have been serviced. Change the filter on the furnace. Make sure the propane tank is full. Use only modern space heaters. Keep them away from flammable objects, such as clothes, blankets or curtains. Also, have extra blankets, sweaters and slippers within easy reach of your bed, couch, or wherever you spend the most time.

    Do prepare for the worst-case scenario

    One bad snowstorm can cause a great deal of havoc. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario, like losing power for a week or more. If there is a generator for the house, make sure it is serviced. If not, have one installed that is powerful enough to run a few lights and essential appliances during a power outage. Stock up on water, batteries, candles and canned food. Always keep a disaster kit handy.

    Do stock up on medical supplies

    Health conditions, such as incontinence, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s Disease, don’t take snow days. Traveling during storms to purchase needed medical supplies can be dangerous. In some weather conditions driving is impossible. Purchase home medical products online. You can choose from an array of products for every kind of health condition. No matter the weather, the products arrive in a fast and timely way. In some cases, they arrive the same day.

    DON’T:

    Don’t shovel alone

    Never shovel snow alone. The combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion increases the workload on the heart. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snowdrifts puts a huge strain on the heart. Shoveling also increases the chance of a fall, injuries and muscle strains. Ask for help. If you’re active enough to manage it, be sure you still have someone who can come help out, and can be there should you need them.

    Don’t leave the house without properly dressing for the cold

    Winter storms can leave motorists stranded. Individuals with compromised health are more sensitive to the cold and need extra layers for warmth. Make sure that you are well dressed in case of an accident before heading out. Also, make sure you have a windproof coat, hat, gloves and waterproof boots – even for short trips. It’s also a good idea to leave extra winter clothing, snacks and water in the car at all times.

    Don’t forget to hydrate

    Seniors and those who are sick are more prone to wintertime dehydration. The air is drier and they tend to feel less thirsty. Nevertheless, it’s vital to keep hydrated. Fill a pitcher each morning to serve as a reminder to yourself to drink eight glasses of water. Add lemon slices or juice to flavor the water. This makes it easier to drink.

    Don’t overlook the importance of car maintenance

    In the winter we tend to drive less. For this reason, too often we let car maintenance slide. Keep your car – if you still drive – running well. Make sure the tires are in good shape and can handle winter conditions. Also, make sure the antifreeze and windshield wiper fluids are full. Keep the gas tank above half-full at all times. Otherwise, condensation can build up in a near-empty gas tank in sub-freezing temperatures. This causes the fuel line to freeze-up. A reliable car is crucial during the cold months, especially in case of a medical emergency.

    With these simple steps, and some help from loved ones, you can enjoy this wonderful time of the year to its fullest!

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  • October 25, 2017 /  Basics

    7 Ways We Can Keep Our Home Safe

    It’s a fact of life that as we age, our safety concerns increase. Physical changes associated with aging may raise new issues in your home, so it’s important to create a safe environment for independent living. And it’s never too early to start! It’s better to make these adjustments now so you don’t have to worry about them a decade down the line.  Fortunately, there are many ways to make your home environment much safer.

    1. Fire Safety

    While smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers are essential safety equipment in every home, placing these items in easy-to-access locations is especially important in the home of a senior citizen. Impaired hearing may make it difficult to hear an alarm sounding in another part of the house, so it’s important to place carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in frequently used spaces such as bedrooms, bathrooms, the kitchen, and the living room. Likewise, impaired mobility may make it more difficult to get to a fire extinguisher quickly for small fires, so store several in easy-to-reach places such as in a kitchen cupboard, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, and in the living room. If possible, make smoke detectors part of a monitored alarm system, which decreases fire department response time.

    2. Safer Bathrooms

    Showers can be slick, making them dangerous for those with limited mobility or poor eyesight. There are multiple ways to increase the safety of baths and showers.

    • Grab bars help with stability, and can prevent slips and falls. Likewise, a grab bar installed near the entrance to a tub or shower will give you something to hold onto when stepping over the edge of the tub. Install grab bars at arm height, as well as one at about waist height. You can also install a grab bar next to the toilet so you can pull yourself up and safely lower yourself.
    • Rubber mats or decals render tile less slippery, minimizing the risk of slipping and falling.
    • Shower seats give you a place to safely sit during a shower. These improve safety by allowing you to sit if you feel dizzy or tired. Choose a sturdy seat that affixes firmly to the floor of the tub or shower.
    • Walk-in tubs and showers eliminate the risk associated with the high-step into the bath tub/shower that is a fall hazard.
    • Taller toilets make it easier to get up and down. Many major manufacturers make toilets with higher seats, which can improve safety for those with mobility impairments.

    3. Monitored Alarm Systems

    Along with a monitored fire alarm system, you’ll be safer with monitored burglar alarms, as well as a personal emergency response and home safety alert system. Choose monitored alarm systems that have easily accessible panic buttons. These systems provide easy ways for you to call for help if you’re injured, sick, or unable to get to a telephone.

    4. More Lighting

    Inadequate lighting may cause accidents. Make sure all high-traffic areas (such as the living room and bedroom) have bright, easily accessible lighting. Install automated and safety lighting inside and outside of the house. Outside, install motion activated safety lights, which can provide visibility after dark and may discourage intruders, as well. Inside, install an automated lighting system so you can easily access and turn on lights without having to cross a room to find a light switch.

    5. Safer Stairs

    Indoor and outdoor stairs may also create hazards. Take the following precautions to make stairs safer.

    • Outside, install non-skid strips on steps and porches to provide extra traction when they are wet.
    • Tighten all handrails and banisters to provide a sturdy support for ascending and descending stairs. If stairs do not have a handrail, install one at slightly lower than elbow height.
    • Remove runners from stairways, which can be a tripping hazard.
    • Indoors on wooden stairs, install non-skid strips.
    • Install ramps if you use a walker or wheelchair.

    6. Outdoor Safety

    Outdoor areas have a number of safety hazards that need to be secured to keep you safe.

    • Trim trees, plants, and hedges so they don’t infringe on walkways.
    • Maintain adequate outdoor lighting. Consider installing pathway lighting to help improve nighttime visibility.
    • Fix cracked, broken, or displaced pavers and tiles, which can be tripping hazards.
    • Level rough patches of lawn that may have bumps or holes that can be tripping hazards.
    • Install non-skid decking, or use materials on decks to keep it safer in wet weather.
    • Fix broken steps and loose or uneven boards on decks and porches.
    • Tighten handrails and deck rails so they are secure to grip.
    • Keep sidewalks clear of debris that could cause trips and falls.

    7. Bedroom

    Make bedrooms safer with several bedroom upgrades.

    • Install sturdy bed rails to assist with getting in and out of bed.
    • Place a phone next to the bed and post emergency phone numbers where they are easy to see.
    • Create some kind of emergency escape in case of fire, such as a window safety slide.
    • Adjust bed height so it is not too difficult to get in or out of. Medical professionals suggest a safe bed height is at knee level or lower. An adjustable bed can also increase safety, making it safer for you to get in and out of bed.
    • Use a firm mattress on the bed, which makes it easier to get off the bed.
    • Place lighting controls next to the bed and just inside the door so you don’t have to cross the room in the dark.
    • Install a night-light or small lamp in en-suite bathrooms so it’s easier to find the way in the dark.

    While we may not have the ability to stop ourselves aging (or stop the physical declines associated), we can make large changes to our home environment to accommodate them. By taking steps to improve your surrounding environment, you can greatly increase your health, safety, and longevity!

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  • July 10, 2017 /  Basics

    How Older Ones Can Stay Safe in the Summer

    The summer is now here in full force and in most areas of the country there are times that it gets dangerously hot. The fact is, older ones are more susceptible to its ill effects. As you get older, your sweat glands are less active, and make it harder for your body to eliminate heat. Even seniors as young as their 60s still have a higher risk in the heat, especially if they have any chronic health conditions.

    There are 4 basic, vital steps that everyone should take to protect themselves. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns as well, and see what advice they have for you.

    1. Sun Protection: First and foremost, you need to protect yourself before you even step outside. And that means more than applying sunscreen! You should absolutely wear it, though, any time you go out. Even when in the shade, or when it doesn’t seem too sunny, you should still apply it. You’d be surprised how much exposure you get even at those times!

    The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using “broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher”. This level of SPF filters out about 97 perfect on the sun’s UV radiation. Broad-spectrum ensures that you’re protected from both UVA and UVB rays.

    But it doesn’t stop there. Sunscreen can only do so much. You need to protect yourself additionally by wearing broad-rimmed hats and sunglasses. Choose loose-fitting clothing made from a breathable fabric such as cotton, and choose lighter colors. Avoid prolonged exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the hottest part of the day.

    2. Keep Hydrated: Most adults need about two quarts (64 ounces) of fluids every day, but that amount increases with heat and humidity and can change based on various medications. Drink plenty of cool water throughout the day, and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which will actually dehydrate you.

    If you struggle to drink enough water, remember that you can get extra hydration by eating water-rich foods such as cucumbers and watermelon. You can also purchase flavored waters, drink a half-and-half mixture of fruit juice and water, and include plenty of ice in your usual favorite beverage. But in the end, these need to be an accompaniment to a consistent intake of water throughout your day.

    3. Cool Down: What steps can you take to stay cool throughout the day? If you feel very hot and uncomfortable, try a cool shower, or sit with your feet in a basin of cold water. Keep your AC at a reasonable temperature. If you’re out and about, be sure to have air-conditioned places around you – this includes coffee shops, libraries, stores, and the like. This is a great way to get mild exercise, too. Some seniors enjoy walking around malls in the early morning, especially if they have a friend to join them.

    4. Watch for Signs of Heat Stroke: Even if you follow all of these steps, as a senior you’re more prone to experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Part of the reason for this is that older ones have a harder time, on average, monitoring and adjusting to big changes in temperature. As the CDC points out, “People aged 65 years or older are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature.”

    According to the Mayo Clinic, heat stroke symptoms include:

    • High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
    • Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
    • Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
    • Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
    • Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
    • Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
    • Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
    • Headache. Your head may throb.

    If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate help. Call 911 and if you have any family or friends nearby, alert them to your situation, so they can stay with you until professional help arrives. In the meantime, some quick steps you can take include getting indoors or into the shade, removing excess or heavy clothing, and using a hand-held fan with a water mister.

    By following these guidelines, you can be sure to have a healthy, enjoyable summer!

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