Winter is a dangerous time for seniors. Colder weather carries with it the risk of hypothermia, as well as increased slip and fall risks due to ice and slush. Winter is also flu season. It’s hard at times for seniors to stay comfortable throughout the colder months – but there are several things caregivers can do to help.
One way caregivers can help seniors stay warm and safe this winter is helping them winterize their homes. Winterizing may not be possible for seniors with mobility or other health issues, but caregivers can step in and make sure all the necessary tasks are done.
7 Ways Caregivers can Help Seniors Winterize
1. Clean Out Those Gutters
Clogged gutters can get blocked and overflow. As winter approaches, trees drop their fall leaves, and cause more problems than at any other time of year.
Blocked gutters can lead to leaks, and costly repairs. Head problems off at the pass by cleaning gutters, or hiring someone to come do so.
Help seniors get their gutters cleaned before the winter weather sets in, and check on those gutters after periods of bad weather, to prevent blocks and leaks.
2. Check Roofs and Windows
Leaking roofs or windows are bad news for anyone, at any time of year, but especially in winter. Leaks are serious – they can lead to damaged furnishings, damp patches inside the home, and mold growth.
Meanwhile, drafty windows make the home colder and increase the risk of older adults getting sick.
Help seniors by having roofs and windows checked out and get any home repairs done before winter sets in.
3. Weatherproof the Exterior
Seniors living in colder states will benefit from a little extra weatherproofing outside their home.
Weather strips are inexpensive and easy to install around doors and windows. Weather stripping doors and windows blocks drafts and helps keep a home cozy as temperatures drop.
Check the basement for any holes where animals could creep in, and block them off. If the senior in question lives in a storm-prone area, consider installing storm shutters to protect against inclement weather. Remember seniors may not be able to operate storm shutters themselves, so do make sure there is help available when they need it.
4. Insulate Pipes
Frozen pipes can burst, causing a small flood and affecting the supply of water. Help protect seniors by getting their pipes insulated before winter.
Foam pipe insulation is relatively inexpensive and easy to fit yourself, or you can call a plumber or handyman for advice and installation.
5. Arrange for Snow and Ice Removal
Snow and ice are real slip and fall hazards, especially for seniors who aren’t so steady on their feet.
Make sure seniors can get snow and ice cleared from their property throughout the winter. Caregivers can take care of this themselves, or see about paying someone to clear paths regularly. Younger neighbors are often happy to help out.
More active seniors can clear their own paths, but do make sure their tools (such as snow shovels) are in good shape, and that they have an adequate supply of salt or sand.
6. Make Sure There is Enough Fuel
Hypothermia is a serious risk for older adults in winter. Caregivers can help by making sure seniors have enough fuel.
Check stocks of wood for those who have burners in their home, and oil for those who use off-grid oil heating. For those with gas central heating, make sure they have the funds available to keep their homes warm.
Give free-standing space heaters the once-over to make sure they are safe and fit for use, with no frayed cords or other visible damage.
7. Put Together an Emergency Kit
Related: Emergency Preparedness for Seniors
Caregivers, family and friends can’t be there 24 hours a day. That’s why it’s important to ensure seniors are safe during an emergency, be that a power outage, a heater breakdown, or severe weather that makes it impossible for caregivers to get to them.
Put together an emergency kit of flashlights, batteries, enough food for three days, water, warm clothing, regular and emergency medication, a cell phone with credit on it, and a list of emergency contact numbers. Agree an emergency plan with seniors ahead of time so they know what to do in the event of an emergency.
Helping seniors winterize their home makes it easier for them to stay warm and safe throughout the colder months. With winter looming on the horizon, it’s the pefect time to get started.