It’s January and the start of a brand new year! However, it’s also winter, which is one of the most difficult seasons when it comes to elder care. That’s because the elderly are more vulnerable than the general population to illnesses and accidents related to extreme weather. If you’re taking care of a homebound senior, you’ll want to review these important tips for keeping them healthy and safe during the colder months.
Watch the weather
When it comes to elder care, keeping a close eye on the weather report is paramount. You never know when the next big storm is going to hit. And just as you’d make sure your own home and mode of transport is ready for an onslaught by the elements, make sure your senior is ready for it, too.
Restock and replenish
Restock and replenish your senior’s emergency supplies. Take note of which ones may have run out during previous years, and how many “extras” you might need. These can include items such as blankets, batteries, bottled water, canned food, condensed milk, utensils, and more.
Plan for a senior’s special needs
In the event of an emergency, you or your senior may not have access to the particular items they need on a daily basis. These can include prescriptions, medical equipment, and wound care or diabetic supplies. Make sure you have a plan for getting these on short notice, or even gathering additional ones to place with other emergency provisions.
Dress for success
It’s always best for seniors and others with health risks to stay indoors during the winter. However, if they must venture out, make sure they’re dressed appropriately. This includes hats, gloves, scarfs, and sturdy, waterproof boots that are easy to walk in. Coats and jackets that deflect moisture are important as well, because wearing wet clothing can lead to illness. It may help if they dress in layers to avoid overheating when they do get indoors.
Avoid exposure to the elements
Exposure to the elements is dangerous for anyone, but even more so for seniors. Be on the lookout for signs of frostbite, numbness, and hypothermia. If your loved one already has a condition that affects the extremities, such as diabetes, they may not even be aware of the early symptoms of frostbite. Also, keep in mind that unusual drowsiness or confusion is one of the first symptoms of hypothermia.
Prep your pipes
One of the most common problems homeowners have in the winter is freezing pipes. However, this isn’t just an inconvenience to the homebound elderly – it can be downright deadly. Check your senior’s pipes in advance of any bad weather to make sure they’re functioning properly, or if they’re at risk for freezing. Make sure you know the procedure for shutting off their water if a pipe bursts.
Hopefully, you already have a list of important and / or emergency contacts for your senior. But winter is the time to see that they’re in a prominent, accessible place in the senior’s home. Consider making additional copies for those providing elder care to your loved one, or others who come to check on them regularly.
Even if your senior still drives and has a valid license, hazardous road conditions during the winter may cause them to get into an accident. Be their transport or arrange for escorted transportation in the event they need to go somewhere crucial, such as the doctor’s, pharmacist’s, or grocery store.
Share these winter elder care tips with everyone you know
It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that seniors don’t need special care during winter, but as you can see, this simply isn’t true. Now that you’re aware of how to ensure senior safety and health during winter, share these tips with everyone you know. If you don’t take the proper precautions, they may be at risk for serious injury and illness. But with a little planning and preparation, your elderly loved one will likely enjoy many more seasons in their home!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.