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How Can Seniors Best Prepare For The Upcoming Winter




"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." ...Anne Bradstreet


As we approach the 2nd half of autumn and move into winter, feeling the chilly sou’westerly winds and November downpours, we are reminded that seasons come and go as they always have since the beginning of time.


While some of us might enjoy the winter fun and all that it brings, it can be a difficult season for older adults. The onset of cold weather can create hazardous conditions outside, and people often prefer to stay home when it’s more pleasant indoors, which can lead to social isolation and depression.


KEEP SAFE THIS WINTER



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. Studies have 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.


Prepare for Ice and Snow


Whenever snow or ice appear in the forecast, bundle up with gloves, a heavy coat, a scarf, or other warm clothes to protect you from the cold. Wear shoes with non-skid soles, take your car in for regular check-ups and make sure that your snow blower is working. Put ice scrapers in your cars and keep shovels and a bucket of rock salt or other de-icing salt at the ready.

So if you think it is safe enough to go to outside but you’re still leery about driving, don’t hesitate to ask friends, family or neighbors to give you a ride or help with errands.

For further information about our professional care services and how we can assist your loved one throughout the winter, contact Modern Day Home Health Care at 778-539-5300 or check out our website: www.moderndayhomehealthcare.com


Stock up on Food and Blankets


When your front walk is crusted over with ice and you’ve heard news reports about accidents on the highways, it’s probably best to stay indoors. One measure you can take to ensure that you’re equipped to wait out the weather is to stockpile water bottles, a pantry of groceries (including non-perishable items like canned meats, vegetables and soups), and a week’s worth of medication. And be sure to keep warm blankets and extra layers of clothing in the house.


Make Sure your Generator’s Working


Blizzards and snowstorms may sound picturesque, but winter weather can down power lines and snap off the electricity inside your home. To be prepared for a power outage, buy a portable generator, which should keep your electricity running even if you get cut off from your main power sources. Store a flashlight and extra batteries in an easy-to-reach place like a bedside table, buy a food thermometer, and assemble an emergency kit that might include extra cash, maps of your area and a first aid kit with relevant medications.


Connect with Others


One aspect of senior safety that has more to do with mental rather than physical health is staying connected with others. People tend to stay indoors more often during the winter, but whenever you have the chance to catch up with friends and family, try to stay connected and engaged.


Call or Zoom with children or grandchildren who are out of town. When the weather permits, go mall-walking with a friend, join a book club, or have dinner at a neighbor’s house. Take every opportunity to stay active and invigorated with other people’s company, because a healthy social life correlates with fewer feelings of negativity – which is a great way to ward off the winter blues.


"Thank goodness for the first snow, it was a reminder--no matter how old you became and how much you'd seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered." …Candace Bushnell


Additional 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. 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.

· Insulate windows and doors. That patio door can be nice for catching a breeze on an autumn afternoon, but when temperatures plunge, such doors may create a cold draft, especially in older, less insulated homes. There are several products available at the hardware store that can help shut out winter wind including sealable plastic coverings and temporary caulk for windows or unused doors. These types of sealants can be especially beneficial along a sofa or next to a bed. Another option is to install some additional weather stripping along the bottom of doors or windows. Reducing such drafts not only makes your home warmer but can also lower your heating bill, an important consideration for seniors on a fixed income.

· Protect your pipes. You won’t need that garden hose for a few months, so disconnect it from the outside faucet and store it to prevent cracks in the rubber. And if your hose bib has an indoor shut-off valve, be sure to turn it off to prevent pipes from freezing or bursting.


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 more tips to consider as you help them adjust to winter weather:


· 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 on 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 or sundowning (The term "sundowning" refers to a state of confusion occurring in the late afternoon and lasting into the night. Sundowning can cause different behaviors, such as confusion, anxiety, aggression or ignoring directions. Sundowning can also lead to pacing or wandering) 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.


“As long as the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

Gen: 8-22

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