Elder Care and Winter Weather Safety

As the days grow shorter and the nights become chilly, many are looking at the coming months and thinking about the onset of wintery weather. For those who are caring for elderly parents, the winter – along with its slippery snowfall and icy conditions – is always a concern. Given that most serious injuries with the elderly are the result of a slip and fall, the topic of elder care and winter weather safety is a great start in the effort to prevent problems with an at-home elder during the cold winter months to come.
During the winter months, the likelihood of a winter weather event (or emergency) with an at-home elder is increased. The worst winter weather typically involves wind and freezing temperatures, along with sleet and freezing rain that can quickly knock out heat, power, and telephone communications. In addition, heavy snowfall can impede traffic of all forms, making it difficult to get to an elder in need. The following is a list of winter-weather tips that will help safeguard the elderly at home during the coming winter months.
Tips for Winter Weather Safety of the Elderly
• Keep them warm. As their metabolism slows when they age, they tend to produce less body heat. The elderly are, therefore, more susceptible to cold weather and its side-effects. A sudden drop in body temperature, for example, may result in hypothermia. Extra blankets that are easy to reach from the sofa, bed, or a favorite chair are a benefit.
• Slippers or slipper-socks should have a grippy sole to prevent sliding and slipping on smooth flooring surfaces.
• Arrange for a furnace service call. This time of year is an excellent time for a furnace inspection and tune-up. If a furnace were to quit working on a particularly cold night, it could result in serious trouble for an elder. When the furnace tune-up is complete, make sure that you get a business card or a refrigerator magnet with a 24-hour emergency phone number. Put it in a place that is easy to find.
• Replace all the batteries in flashlights, emergency lighting, smoke detectors, thermostats, alarm clocks, radios, home weather stations, carbon monoxide detectors, and other similar devices. This time of year is an excellent time to replace batteries. In the event of a wintery storm, knowing that all their batteries are new will provide a great deal of peace of mind.
• Make sure they have help with the outside chores. Shoveling snow is no small chore for the elderly. Shoveling a walkway or a drive may elevate their heart rate to a dangerous level. In addition, the heart has to work even harder in cold weather to maintain body temperature in cold weather. When the weather report shows a potential for snow and ice, make sure that you have an action plan in place to clear their walkways and drives for them.
• Keep snow and ice melt handy. These may take a little time to work on icy walkways, but they’re great in a pinch.
• Keep the names and addresses of people to notify in case of an emergency, as well as a list of all medications being taken, and any allergies to known medications, readily available.
The Elder Care and Winter Weather Safety article is just one of many resources designed to help seniors and senior-care providers. To read more about senior care topics and stay up-to-date on latest developments, read the monthly blog articles here at Benefits of Home.