As temperatures begin to drop, it’s never too early to start preparing your loved ones for the winter ahead. While the wintertime provides an opportunity to try new hobbies and connect with family and friends over holiday celebrations, it also presents unique challenges for the senior population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults are more sensitive to the cold than younger adults. In fact, a body temperature below 95 degrees increases the risk of heart disease and kidney damage, resulting in severe health deficits. The winter weather also increases the risk of falling for most older adults. The Mayo Clinic found that older adults are more likely to fall in the winter or at any time of the year than younger people, and are also at greater risk if they do fall. Our winter safety tips for seniors will help you prepare your loved one’s home for the winter and also ensure their safety all season long.
Home Safety Tips for Seniors in the Winter
If your loved one experiences limited mobility, they may need additional support in preparing their home for the winter. Senior living communities, like those offered by Maplewood Senior Living, provide maintenance services that allow residents to enjoy the winter without any of the work. However, if your loved one still lives at home, consider these winter safety precautions for seniors:
- Check heating and air conditioning. Before the weather reaches colder temperatures, HVAC systems should be checked and air filters changed. At the very least, test the heat to make sure it will work when you need it during the winter.
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires occur more during winter months than in any other season, and heating equipment is involved in over 16% of reported home fires and 20% of home fire deaths. Check all your family member’s smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re working and have fresh batteries. This is also a good time to make sure they have a fire extinguisher, know its location, and understand how to operate it in an emergency. In a multilevel home, there should be a fire extinguisher on each floor.
- Schedule chimney and flue inspections. Many people use their fireplaces to stay warm. However, it’s important to have that fireplace and chimney inspected by a professional to ensure it’s working properly and to reduce the risk of fire.
- Winterize their home. The next time you visit, take a look around their home for any fall hazards. Consider removing any rugs from entryways, replacing worn tips on walkers and canes, and ensuring that handrails are installed in entryways and bathrooms.
Winter Safety Checklist for Seniors
In addition to preparing your loved one’s home for winter, make sure they have a few provisions before the first ice or snowstorm hits. Here are a few tips to consider as you help them adjust to winter weather:
- Prepare for ice and snow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among adults aged 65 and older. Slick conditions, common during winter storms, can increase the risk of falling for older adults. Make sure your loved one has a shovel and salt stored in an easily accessible place clear of trip hazards. If they aren’t able to shovel or salt their driveway and walkway themselves, make plans for help ahead of time.
- Be ready for power outages. If a severe winter storm hits, power lines could be weighed down by snow and ice, causing power outages. Make sure you stock up on batteries, flashlights, blankets, sweaters, and nonperishable foods. Keep these items together so they’re easy to find during a power outage.
- Emphasize safety with decorations. If your loved one celebrates the holidays, make sure their decorations aren’t a tripping hazard and don’t pose a fire risk. Lights should be in good working condition and encourage them not to leave burning candles unattended.
- Arrange for care. Typical daily tasks can become more difficult during the wintertime. You may consider arranging additional assistance for your loved one at the start of winter. Getting groceries and medications delivered during cold weather conditions can help keep them safe at home.
- Winterize the car. In addition to your loved one’s home, their vehicle will also need some seasonal attention. Consider taking the vehicle in to be serviced, including an oil change, battery and tire check, and windshield wipers replacement.
Navigating Winter with Dementia
Wintertime can present added obstacles for those living n their own with very mild dementia. However, there are a few ways to make the transition into chillier days easier. Your loved one may not always remember to dress warmly when it’s cold outside.. Keeping winter clothes easily accessible will help your family member dress appropriately and reduce the risk of hypothermia. During your visits, make sure their environment is kept at a warm temperature. You might even consider installing a smart system that allows you to control the temperature from your phone. For many adults living with dementia, sundowning can become even worse during the winter months. As it becomes darker even earlier, your loved one’s perception of time will change. To reduce the effects of sundowning, turn on the lights earlier in the evening. And always remember to check in with your loved one on a regular basis.
Preparing for Winter at Maplewood Senior Living
Our communities at Maplewood Senior Living are staffed and designed to keep our residents safe and supported all winter long. From snow and ice removal to robust meal offerings, we make living easy, even during winter weather. If you’re ready to hand in your shovel and opt for worry-free living, schedule a tour today. We also have a useful tip sheet — Tips for Winter Caregiving — that gives you a quick look at ideas to prepare.