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How to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe During Winter

Family in winter

How to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe During Winter

February 1, 2023

As winter is in full swing it’s important to keep family members, especially elderly family members, safe from weather-related injuries. Temperature extremes are more common in older adults – they can quickly lose body heat, putting them at risk before realizing how dangerous it is. The risk of falling and other injuries can increase in winter weather as well. 

Here are some winter safety tips and precautions for seniors to avoid the following winter hazards. 


Falling is one of the most common winter injuries, especially when there is snow or ice. Make sure you have salt or sand on your walkways and steps before you venture out. Slow down, as areas that seem safe might be hiding a thin layer of ice. To prevent slippage, wear non-skid boots. If you or your loved one uses a cane, make sure that the rubber tip is in good condition and has not been worn completely. A good tip is to replace the rubber each year, just like you would add snow tires to your vehicle. To provide greater stability, ice grips can also be purchased. 

Snow Shoveling Injury

If you or your loved one lives in a snowy area, it’s important to take as many precautions as you can to keep from serious injuries. While snow shoveling can lead to back injuries, falls and heart strain for anyone, it is especially dangerous for seniors and those with heart disease. Ask a neighbor or close friend to help with snow removal. There are volunteer groups that can assist seniors with snow removal, check local listings, including social media, for those willing to help. It is a good idea to check before any snowstorms so you can reserve a spot on their list. 


Hypothermia is a condition in which your body experiences a drastic drop in temperature. If there’s not enough heat at home, this can happen outdoors or indoors.

Seniors lose heat very quickly so they should be indoors as much possible when the temperature drops.  Indoor temperatures should never be below65 degrees. To help keep warm, an older adult should have several layers of loose-fitting clothing, as well as winter gear such gloves, mittens and hats. In cooler indoor environments, layers of clothing can be useful. It is important to change clothing as soon as it gets wet. Wet clothes chill the body more quickly. 

Don’t assume an older adult isn’t cold because they don’t feel cold. Hypothermia can be identified by pale or ashy skin, feeling tired and confused, slow breathing, difficulty walking and slow heart rate. Call emergency help immediately if you notice signs of hypothermia. 


Frostbite occurs when the skin and tissue beneath it freeze. Frostbite can occur on fingers, toes, and other exposed parts of the body and is more common in those with poor circulation or heart disease. 

For older adults, a winter hat should cover their ears, and gloves and a scarf should also be worn. They should immediately go to the emergency room if their skin starts to turn red, darken or hurt. 

Frostbite needs immediate medical attention. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, white, ashy or grayish-yellow complexions, skin that feels hard or waxy, and skin that feels dry. You should immediately seek medical attention if you notice signs of frostbite. 

Carbon Monoxide and Fire

Needing to heat your home during the winter is necessary but can also lead to potential fires or carbon monoxide poisoning when not done properly. There are many methods of heating your home, including gas appliances, fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and fire, it is crucial that these heat sources are properly used. Annual inspections of flues, chimneys, and heaters are recommended. Space heaters should be kept a least three feet from flammable items such as curtains, bedding, or furniture.  Place smoke detectors and carbon monoxide sensors in strategic locations throughout your home, particularly in areas that have fireplaces, wood stoves or space heaters. Contact your local firehouse for an inspection to ensure correct placement, and that batteries are working properly, many offer this as a free service. Test smoke detectors and carbon Monoxide detectors frequently.

Headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision or loss of consciousness are all signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. You should immediately seek medical attention if you notice any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Winter can be dangerous for the elderly, however, following the winter safety tips (also see our Hot Weather Safety Tips for Seniors) above can help ensure everyone stays warm and safe. Check in on elderly loved ones and neighbors frequently during storms and extreme temperatures drops to make sure they are well taken care of. 


It’s never too late – or too early – to think about fall prevention and safety. Charter Healthcare is happy to discuss the benefits of our services for the people you love. Contact us to learn more.