Winter is coming. Fall is already upon us and cold air, snow, and the holiday season are soon to follow. As we move into the last season of 2020 - *thank goodness* - here are some tips on keeping yourself and your senior loved one’s safe this Winter season.
Is your home well-insulated and protected from the elements of winter weather? Be sure to address any drafty doors, windows, and crawlspace vents. This can help keep the cold out by reducing heat loss and preventing the entrance of cold air into living spaces. Also, be sure to insulate any water pipes along exterior walls and in the crawl space if necessary. If you have sprinkler lines in your yard, don’t forget to have your irrigation system water lines cleared before freezing weather hits.
Are your vehicles winterized and ready for potentially icy roads? Having your mechanic take a look at your vehicle can help address that everything is running smoothly and that there are no pending issues to address. After a tune-up, make sure that all-weather tires are on the vehicle and studded tires and/or chains are in the vehicle and accessible for any winter road-trips. This can help make sure that you make it over the river and through the woods on the way to Grandma’s house. Keep a roadside emergency kit in your car just in case – if you don’t have one yet, here’s a helpful list on how to build your own.
Prepare an in-home emergency kit in case Winter storms knock out power, or you are unable to make it to the store due to weather conditions. Stock extra, non-perishable, pre-cooked food and store clean water reserves. Consider a generator or hand-powered flashlight radio that can charge your phone to keep you connected and informed with NOAA weather updates. The CDC has some helpful tips on preparing your emergency kit.
In the event of ice and snow, be sure to treat pathways and walking surfaces with anti-slip compounds. Slips, trips, and falls are large safety concerns especially in icy weather, which can make it difficult for emergency services to reach the incident quickly. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Will you, or your loved, ones be prepared for a snowstorm? In addition to the emergency supplies listed above, consider that you may need to create a communication plan. Having a communication plan in place will help family members know what to do in the event of an emergency.
It’s also important to keep in mind that many people experience unexpected health emergencies each year while shoveling snow or using a snowblower. Will your elderly loved one attempt to clear their own walkway? Try to coordinate with neighbors who may be able to assist with this as needed. This will help keep your loved one safe indoors.
Hypothermia and extreme cold can even happen inside the home. As we age, our ability to feel changes in temperature decreases. It’s important to keep an easy-to-read thermometer inside the home – especially for adults over the age of 65. This can also help with the prevention of health problems that are caused by cold temperatures.
If temperatures become too cold and the power goes out, is your loved one well-prepared to utilize alternate heating systems? Many will turn to their wood-burning fireplace or utilize a generator to power small fan heaters. However, these solutions can cause fire dangers and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if they are not properly handled. It is vitally important to ensure that your chimney is inspected and cleaned each year. Generators should be run per the manufacturers operating instructions and should be placed outside the house at a safe distance to prevent any fumes from entering the household. Likewise, ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed and that they also have battery backups if hardwired.
Getting a Winter Health Checkup with your primary care doctor is also a great way to stay safe and healthy this Winter. Ensure that you and your loved ones are up to date with your vaccinations for Cold and Flu Season, to help stay healthy throughout the holidays. National pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens are also great alternatives for Flu shots for those currently without a primary care provider.
Be sure to check their websites for locations near you, and ensure that you follow social distancing, mask use, and all CDC guidelines when arriving for your checkup or flu shot appointment.
Check out the graphic below from Health In Aging, for more tips on Winter Safety Tips for Older Adults. This resource gives some helpful tips on identifying and resolving common winter health issues faced by Seniors each Winter.
If you are still concerned that your loved one is no longer safe living independently or have questions about caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia; please contact your nearest JEA Senior Living community for resources. Our community care Teams will be happy to assist you in caring for your loved one.