Today’s guest post from Caryl Anne Crowne of Senior Helpers is sure to help many seniors stay safer this coming winter!
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Few people enjoy the unrelenting subzero cold and wind during the winter months. But preparation is doubly important when you have senior family members under your roof. As the temperatures drop, make sure you take all of these precautions before ice and snow sets in.
1. Prepare for Power Outages
Depending on where you live, snow storms are a grim reality for a few months every year. And sometimes, the storms are strong enough to cut off power for days or even weeks. For younger people, this might just be an annoyance, but for seniors, it could lead to issues like hypothermia, malnutrition, or confusion.
To prevent these potentially fatal issues, have a generator on hand with plenty of fuel to tide you over for at least a few days. And remember to always keep it outdoors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. You should also invest in some flashlights and candles as short-term solutions, or in case your generator runs out of fuel prematurely. Finally, keep some food and water rations in a safe place if your refrigerated food goes bad.
2. De-Ice Your Sidewalks and Driveways
Frozen driveways and sidewalks are precarious enough without the added difficulties of old age. Keep up with weather reports, and if inclement weather is expected, salt every walking surface well in advance to prevent ice accumulation.
Then, after snowfall, be sure to clear pathways of obvious obstructions as well as treacherous black ice that could lead to broken bones or head trauma. By implementing these preventative measures, you will make your home’s outer areas far safer for the seniors in your home.
3. Check Your Car
It’s pointless to prevent home accidents if you don’t get your car ready for winter too. While this is actually the best time of year for your car’s mileage, there are many other factors that take a toll on your ride’s integrity. And breaking down when your senior is in the car could quickly lead to hypothermia or frostbite before help can make the trip to your location.
Before the cold weather sets in, have a full diagnostic performed on your vehicle. Here’s a list of components that need special attention at this time of year:
- Tire tread
It’s also smart to keep an emergency kit in your car at all times, containing items like a snow brush, scraper, salt, flashlight, a blanket, and a battery-operated jump starter. You never know what may happen, especially on long drives during the holidays, so don’t take the risk!
4. Fight the Flu
Winter isn’t just the season for holiday cheer – it also marks the peak of flu season. Most teens and adults can fight this infection if they decide to go without immunization, but young children and seniors have a much harder time when they fall ill with the flu.
While flu vaccines aren’t 100% effective, they still reduce the risk by between 40 and 60%, so anything that can help prevent the likelihood of your senior from catching a potentially fatal illness is far better than no prevention at all. And with vaccinations starting as early as late-August, it’s best to get them done well in advance, as it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop.
5. Bundle Up
If you have a well-functioning heating system in your home, then it can be easy to forget just how unforgiving the weather beyond your front door really is. This leads us to underestimate just how many layers are needed to keep warm. And with poor circulation in old age, seniors can easily lose feeling in the extremities. After long periods of time in below-freezing temperatures, they then become susceptible to frostbite.
If you can help it, it’s best to stay indoors in these conditions, but if you absolutely have to venture outside with your senior, make sure to layer them in a shirt, sweater, and downy coat to keep their core temperature up, as well as a hat to keep heat from escaping from their head. Also, invest in thick socks and gloves, as well as a quality pair of snow boots to prevent the problems mentioned above.
Caryl Anne Crowne is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Senior Helpers. She regularly produces content for a variety of caregiving blogs, discussing different ways of improving senior quality of life.