Tips to help you stay safe and healthy this winter

The statements contained in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CMS. The authors assume responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this document.

With its pretty snowflakes, festive holidays and plenty of opportunity for cozy comfort at home, winter can be a magical time. However, harsh weather conditions, seasonal illness and a higher potential for isolation can also make winter a tough time of year for a lot of people. As temperatures drop, there’s no time like the present to prepare yourself and your home for the winter ahead. Here are some common winter hazards along with tips you can follow to increase your chances of a safer, healthier and happier season.

Stay ahead of the weather with these outdoor safety tips

The sight of falling snow can be beautiful, but snow and ice can also cause a lot of potentially dangerous situations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were an estimated 24,872 hospitalizations for cold-related illnesses and injuries among people aged 65 and over in the United States. The CDC also estimates that older adults are more likely to die from cold-related illnesses and injuries than younger adults.

Here’s how you can protect yourself against the elements:

– Dress warmly in layers

– Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf when you go outside

– Avoid strenuous outdoor activity

– Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids

If you’re in need of assistance with transportation or home maintenance such as shoveling snow this winter, or if you are having trouble affording your home heating bill, the team at ilumed can put you in touch with people who can help.

Lower your chances of injury this winter

In addition to staying warm during the frigid winter months, it’s also important to protect yourself against an increased risk of falling inside or outside of your home. The CDC estimates that 3 million adults aged 65 and over are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries each year. Snow and ice are major risk factors for falls among older adults. In fact, the CDC estimates that one-third of falls among older adults occur in winter.

Here are some ways to prevent yourself from falling:

– Wear sturdy shoes with good traction

– Avoiding walking in areas where there is a lot of snow and ice

– Be careful when getting in and out of cars, buses and other modes of transportation

– Keep your home free of clutter and tripping hazards

– Change from wet shoes or boots to slippers with traction as soon as you get home

– Ensure your home is well-lit, both inside and outside

Remember that the team at ilumed can help you arrange transportation assistance if snow and ice is making it hard to get to doctor’s appointments or the pharmacy. Reach out to our care team to learn about resources in your community that can help you avoid a situation that could lead to a dangerous fall.

Keep seasonal illnesses at bay

Winter is the prime season for colds, flu, Covid-19 and other airborne viruses for a number of reasons. Not only do people tend to stay indoors, increasing their chances of exposure to respiratory viruses, but also because people’s bodies have to work harder to stay warmer in the winter, which may weaken their immune systems. People aged 65 and older are more at risk for complications from the flu, according to the National Institute on Aging.

One way you can prevent serious illness is to get your flu shot. According to the CDC, during the 2022-2023 flu season, the flu vaccine was 42% effective in preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza illness in adults aged 65 and older. This means that vaccinated adults in this age group were 42% less likely to get the flu than unvaccinated adults.

Here are some more ways to keep from getting sick this winter:

– Wash your hands often with soap and water

– Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

– Eat a healthy diet

– Get plenty of sleep

– Exercise regularly

– Avoid close contact with people who are sick

– Keep your home well-heated

Of course, staying healthy during cold, flu and Covid season can be easier said than done, especially if you’re finding it difficult to afford healthy foods, or if you are experiencing housing insecurity. The care team at ilumed can help put you in touch with programs that can help you access nutritious meals, find safe and comfortable housing, assist with heating bills and more.

Make time for self-care and social interaction

Winter can be a time of festive celebration with friends and family. Unfortunately, it can also be a lonely time for many people. Also, snowy weather can make it tough to get out of the house, which can sometimes make people feel isolated and alone. While people of all ages can experience these feelings, loneliness and isolation can take an especially large toll on older adults.

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. This can lead to a variety of health complications, including an increased risk of dementia, stroke and heart disease among older adults, not to mention a considerable toll on their mental health.

Looking for ways to stay connected with people this winter? Here are some ideas:

– Use the phone to connect with people you care about across the miles

– Consider volunteering at a local school, library or community center

– Join a senior-focused exercise class to stay in shape while meeting new people

– Explore opportunities for senior meetups in your community to make new friends

– Join a club focused on one of your interests, such as reading, knitting or watching movies

Be sure to tell a member of the ilumed care team if you are experiencing loneliness or social isolation. In addition to putting you in touch with mental and behavioral health providers for support, we can also connect you to local resources that can help you build connections in your community.

Winter can sometimes feel like a hard time of year, but it doesn’t have to be. Visit ilumed for even more health resources to help you prepare for the coming months. Wishing you a safe, healthy and happy winter season!

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