It’s the time of year when most of us enjoy snuggling up on the couch under a pile of blankets, with a steaming cup of cocoa in our hands while watching the snow fall. However, when the temperatures drop, the risk of health problems and injuries in our aging loved ones rises. This is why it’s so vital to have a plan ready to ensure your loved ones are staying healthy, happy and enjoying a high quality of life, no matter how frightening the winter weather can get.
Winter Safety Tips for Seniors
When aging loved ones still live at home, they can be susceptible to a variety of issues throughout the winter. From health problems like the flu, to slipping on wet floors or ice, or suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder and social isolation, some seniors find getting through the winter months on their own to be extremely difficult.
Here are a few cold weather and home safety tips family caregivers can keep in mind until the weather breaks in the spring:
Schedule daily check-ins. Call your aging loved ones around the same time every day. This way, you will know to be concerned if they don’t answer the phone. If you live too far away to run over and check in on them when they miss a call, enlist a neighbor’s help.
Visit as often as possible. Although it can be difficult to visit aging loved ones if you don’t live nearby, it’s still important to visit as often as you can throughout the winter. An in-person visit allows you to make sure the furnace is working, that there is food in the refrigerator and to check on your loved one’s mood. Social isolation is a major concern at any time of the year, but even more so during the cold months when travelling may be difficult. Social isolation can lead to depression, a decline in physical health and an increased risk for cognitive decline.
Keep the sidewalks clear. The winter brings freezing temperatures, which means snow and ice can make even just walking to the mailbox a dangerous daily task. Falls are the number one cause of injury in seniors, leading to hip fractures or other broken bones. Plus, people over the age of 65 should generally leave the shoveling to a more able-bodied person, especially those with a history of high blood pressure or heart disease. If possible, hire someone who can shovel or plow the driveway and sidewalks at your loved one’s home, making sure salt or kitty litter is also thrown down to allow for better traction.
Arrange for transportation. Even if aging loved ones are still able to drive safely, winter driving tends to be a bit trickier for all drivers. Make sure your loved ones avoid driving in inclement weather, and also that they have an emergency kit in their cars that includes a snow shovel, blanket, water and flashlight. If possible, arrange for another mode of transportation so loved ones can get safely to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store regularly.
Discuss the option of an assisted living community. In an assisted living community, aging loved ones will have access to all they need, all on one convenient campus. From daily meals to on-site health services and wellness or fitness centers, loved ones won’t have to worry about venturing out into the cold or driving anywhere in hazardous conditions. It might be time to start the conversation about transitioning to the easier lifestyle today’s assisted living communities provide.