As we age, safety becomes an important priority for a variety of reasons. In the winter, safety precautions are multiplied due to inclement weather, icy walkways, and the potential for power outages due to storms.
As a caregiver to an elderly adult, it’s important to be properly prepared for winter weather and whatever that might look like where you live. This includes taking a look at potential safety hazards and taking steps to ensure your senior stays safe this season while still enjoying the snowfall and activities that come along with winter.
Start With The Home
If your senior loved one lives alone, it’s important to make sure their home is properly winterized and prepped for the colder weather. Whatever the heat source, be sure your loved one has plenty of fuel and check the levels regularly, if applicable. Be sure the home is properly insulated, windows and doors have functioning seals, and make sure there’s a snow shovel and plenty of ice melt on-hand before it’s needed.
Clean out gutters and keep them clear of debris. Gutters that are backed up and not functioning properly can not only cause damage to the home, but can also cause puddles to accumulate, which can contribute to icy patches during the colder months.
Have furnaces and fireplaces inspected and ensure they’re in proper working order before the temperatures take drastic dips. Seniors, and especially those with heart issues, are vulnerable to health concerns that accompany being too cold, including dehydration. The thermostat in the home should be set to a minimum of 68 degrees to prevent these health concerns from arising.
Be sure the home is equipped with working, up-to-date fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the home.
It is also important to have a backup generator or source of electricity, espcially if the senior is on life-saving equipment, such as oxygen. If a gas-powered generator is the backup source of electricity, be sure that there is ample fuel stocked up for emergencies.
Call the local power company and get the senior placed on their ‘first priority’ list so they will prioritize their home if the power goes out.
Supply Or Check Emergency Kits
Everyone should have emergency kits in both their vehicle and their home, but it is especially important for seniors. Winter emergency kits might include items like a flashlight with extra batteries, a radio, blankets, an extra set of warm winter clothing and outdoor gear like gloves, hat, socks, boots, and snow gear.
The home should be stocked with enough non-perishable food and clean drinking water to last for at least 3 days, but 2 weeks is much better. Be sure to have 30 days’ supplies of any prescribed medications, as well.
Pay special attention to clothing during the colder months and be sure the senior is layering properly and is using a winter coat, waterproof gloves, thick socks, and sturdy, waterproof shoes to prevent common cold-related emergencies like hypothermia, pneumonia, or bronchitis. Being sure they are well-stocked on outdoor gear can also help them get outside and safely enjoy sunlight and fresh air, which can go a long way in improving mood and staving off the winter blues.
Fall hazards are a concern year-round for seniors that have become less stable/mobile. Be sure the home is equipped with plenty of handrails, install extra grip footing on stairs and outdoor deck surfaces that might be exposed to icy conditions, and always keep a snow shovel and ice melt on hand to efficiently handle snowy or icy conditions on walkways.
Keep walking areas free of debris, clutter, or other tripping hazards such as cords or draft busters at doorways. It’s also wise to ensure that all walkways are well-lit since there are fewer daylight hours in the winter and the higher likelihood of having to leave the home after dark. Solar lights that automatically come on as it gets dark are ideal so the senior does not need to remember to turn them on and so that they would be lit up if the individual is arriving home after dark without access to turn them on from the inside.
Focus On Balanced Meals
It’s more difficult to get outside for long enough periods of time to get real benefits from the sunlight during the winter months. For this reason, seniors especially can suffer from vitamin D deficiencies during the colder season.
Eating a healthful, balanced diet can help combat the negative effects of being indoors with less light through the winter months. Vitamin D-rich foods like beef, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs, and oatmeal should become winter staples for the senior in your care.
Another important factor during the winter months is adequate water intake. Many people wrongfully think that they only need to focus on water intake during the hot summer months. However, dehydration can occur just as often during the winter months for aging adults.
Everyone should be properly-prepared for cold weather, regardless of their age, but seniors are more susceptible to some of the dangers that wintery weather brings along with it. If you have an aging loved one in your care, use the above tips to ensure they stay safe and healthy this winter.
Ready to experience peace of mind in a lively assisted living community? Come home to Bellaire at Devonshire. Schedule your tour today and make plans to come out and see our beautiful community, meet our friendly team, and discover the joys of being part of our resident family. We’ll be happy to welcome you!