Posted on Dec 10, 2020 in Senior Tips
As fall starts unfolding, it’s a smart time to ensure your elderly loved ones are ready for the rigors of winter.
With minimal preparation, they’ll be ready to enjoy those cozy evenings in front of the fireplace without any concerns about winter weather and the problems it can bring.
We will take a glimpse at those issues before we show you how preparing seniors for the winter doesn’t take too much time or effort.
According to the CDC, one-quarter of adults over 65 falls at least once each year, even if less than half of these inform their doctor.
Beyond the risk of falling – increased over winter with slippery sidewalks and snowy driveways – there’s also the bugbear of hypothermia, exacerbated as the body’s ability to regulate temperature diminishes with age. Disorders and diseases like Parkinson’s, severe arthritis, and hypothyroidism can all further impact body temperature regulation.
We’ll be looking at some ways to help your senior loved one cope with these issues and more after a quickfire guide to winter-proofing the home of any elderly adults in your life.
Winterizing your home is like a reverse spring clean. Focus on the following areas:
With adverse weather comes an increased chance of power outages. Ice and heavy snow routinely weigh down power lines, so make sure your senior loved ones are not caught off-guard.
Assemble a stockpile of batteries and a couple of decent flashlights so your relative can avoid stumbling around in the dark. Remember that falls are the leading cause of injury and deaths in individuals over 65 in the US.
Make sure blankets are easily accessible as older adults lose body heat more rapidly. As well as blankets, ensure your loved one is fully stocked up on scarves, hats, and thick sweaters. This will minimize any chance of hypothermia if the power and heating go down.
Cater for the refrigerator and freezer being out of commission during any outages. Check out your loved one’s pantry. If there’s not enough readily edible food that doesn’t need heating and doesn’t spoil, buy some and drop it over.
Given the danger of falling for seniors – aging bones break more easily – you should do all you can to reduce the likelihood of this happening.
Beyond the increased chance of injury when seniors take a tumble, there’s also more of a chance that a senior who falls will remain unattended.
If your older relative has a driveway or walkway to their property, make sure it’s shoveled and salted when necessary. If this is something you’d struggle to take care of yourself, consider enlisting the help of a trustworthy neighbor.
However you get it done, ensure that the entrance to your loved one’s property doesn’t present a trip hazard.
Every senior is different when it comes to mobility and the level of independence they enjoy. Think about your aging relative and ask yourself how well they can cope during weather emergencies.
Even if they are capable and self-sufficient most of the time, take no chances when the snow sets in. Arrange for some home help using your preferred service if friends and family are unable to devote enough time to it, or they’re too far away to be of assistance.
Even if you enjoy a milder climate most of the year, you’ll likely see temperatures drop over the winter.
If an older adult in your life uses a fireplace regularly, you should help them to arrange a chimney and flue inspection. A professional will clean away all offending debris and verify that everything’s in working order. If it isn’t, they can advise you on what needs taking care of.
Chimneys and their flues should be inspected annually. It makes sense to time this so you get the job done right before that winter weather kicks in.
As we mentioned above, older adults lose body heat quickly. This means they are at heightened risk of frostbite and hypothermia. The CDC states that over half of all deaths linked to hypothermia occurred in individuals over the age of 65.
Establish that they have enough warm coats, scarves, hats, gloves, and any other clothes they need to withstand the elements. Help them out in any area they are lacking. It could mean the difference between life and death.
Try to help out by maintaining close contact even if that’s by phone or video call. Check out our insight into staying connected with your senior loved ones for some inspiration.
If you suspect your older relative is not eating as healthily as they should do, try to give them a helping hand without interfering or coming on too strong.
Buy them some bags of frozen veggies so they won’t need to get out the chopping board and they won’t lose out on those vital nutrients either.
Direct them toward supplements if you feel they might be lacking in vitamins and minerals. While there’s no substitute for a balanced diet, if that isn’t happening, supplementation is better than nothing.
If an older adult in your life is still driving, get their vehicle serviced if you don’t have the knowledge to check the oil, battery, tires, and windshield wipers yourself.
Ask if they have breakdown cover. You don’t want your loved one stranded on icy roads, potentially with no cell service, and no breakdown cover in place either.
Try to gently encourage your loved one not to make unnecessary journeys in inclement weather, and suggest practical alternatives to driving.
We hope you’ve found some of these tips for preparing seniors for the winter worthwhile and that you make sure any elderly adults you know are safe and socially connected even if the snow keeps them tucked up inside.
If you have an older relative in need of some extra assistance, it may be time to think about an assisted living community. Reach out to the friendly team here at Landmark, and we’ll be delighted to arrange a winter-friendly virtual tour of the closest senior living community to your loved one.