Compared to our neighbors in the north, winters are pretty mild here in the Sunshine State.
Though temperatures may start to feel more mild during the day, our nights are still chilly. As the temperature drops, there are several health care and safety considerations, particularly for older adults. Seniors have a higher likelihood of health issues and injuries when the weather changes, so here are some things to keep in mind.
Be Careful with Indoor Heating
If you don’t have central heating, you may use a fireplace, electric space heater or portable heater that relies on kerosene or natural gas. However, these items can pose a fire hazard if they are not used properly. They also can release carbon monoxide into your home, which could be fatal, especially if you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector.
If you have no option but to use a portable heater, make sure to keep anything flammable away from the heater. Turn the heater off when you are not in the room and when you go to bed. Follow the instructions on the heater and use the type of fuel recommended on the label. Sit at least three feet away from the heater to reduce your risk of a burn injury. Curtains, furniture and other flammable objects should be positioned at least three feet away from the heater, too.
Pay Attention to Your Thermostat
If you rely on a normal heating system to regulate the temperature in your home, make sure the thermostat always is set to at least 68 degrees. When we get older, it becomes harder to maintain our body temperature. However, many seniors who live on fixed incomes may be concerned about their utility bill and keep the temperature lower than it should be. This increases your risk for hypothermia, which also can occur indoors if the temperature isn’t warm enough.
If you are concerned about covering the costs of utilities, programs such as the Orange County Crisis Assistance Program can help you if need financial assistance. The Florida Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is another valuable resource.
Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen
Sun protection is important, too. Florida has the second highest rate of skin cancer in the country. Ultraviolet-A rays (UVA rays) are present year round in Florida, so even when the temperature drops you should wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. Use a moisturizer or sunscreen that says “broad spectrum” on the label. These products protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, which can burn the skin and cause skin cancer.
Stay Active and Social
When it isn’t that warm outside, it can be tempting to stay indoors. However, seniors and caregivers often deal with isolation, so it’s even more important for them to stay connected. Visit family and friends, attend events at your local church or religious institution, volunteer at a local charity or simply make time to talk on the phone with loved ones. Doing all these things can help you avoid winter depression.
To stay healthy this winter, be extra careful about indoor heating, moisturize your skin and use sunscreen for added protection and make time for family and friends. Follow these tips and before you know it, spring will be here.