By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
The winter season can be one of the most beautiful times of the year. But, if you are an older adult living alone or with limited mobility, it can pose problems.
“As winter approaches, older adults need to prepare for the change of seasons,” Beth Sipple, director of community services and programs, Eldercare Services Institute of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging said. “Planning should include plans for snow removal for both driveways and sidewalks leading up to the home. Also, now is the time to make sure that your furnace is in working condition. Older adults should have a plan for transportation during the winter months. Always check with your local senior centers to find out what resources they offer.”
One of the biggest dangers for seniors is falling inside or outside of the home. When a fall occurs, there is a larger risk of breaking a bone or being left unattended for hours. To decrease the likelihood of a fall happening while walking to your car or checking the mail, make sure that your walkways are salted and shoveled. If you are not able to do this yourself, enlist the help of a neighbor, a relative or a neighborhood teenager looking to make some extra cash. Keep non-slip mats inside doors and store shoes on floor mats once inside the home to prevent puddles from accumulating on the floor due to melting snow. Put the lights near entryways on timers set to turn on before the early winter sunsets to illuminate the areas around doorways.
Rain gutters should be clear of leaves that accumulate during the fall. Blocked gutters can overflow and cause damage to the home or create puddles on the ground that freeze in cold weather.
The winter weather can increase the probability of power outages. Heavy snowfall and icy conditions can weigh down power lines. Stock up on flashlights and batteries in case the lights go out. Keep a pile of blankets easily accessible, along with hats, scarves and sweaters that you can layer. Keep non-perishable food in your pantry that you can eat cold and stock up on bottled water. Keep a seven-day supply of prescription medications.
Many seniors live alone and not close to family. Keep carbon monoxide detectors up-to-date to decrease the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of fireplaces, heaters or lanterns.
Melissa Mitchell, director of operations at GrayWolf Residential, suggests that you should check smoke and carbon monoxide detector expiration dates and change devices as needed. She also recommends having your HVAC unit professionally serviced. “Make sure your service includes a carbon monoxide test if your unit uses combustion heat. You should also change the air filter in your HVAC unit every four months,” she added.
Mitchell also recommends checking thermostat and garage door opener batteries, inspecting gas valves for leaks, making sure window and door weather stripping is in good shape and securing all exterior hand railings used for entering and exiting your home.
Artificial trees do not smell as good as the real ones. But, in order to keep your home safe during the winter season, you should consider buying an artificial Christmas tree. This home safety tip is highly recommended by firefighters for seniors living alone.
Daily tasks can be more difficult during weather emergencies. Seniors should consider hiring a home helper or inviting family to stay over when the electrical power goes out. Having a second set of hands can be incredibly helpful.
The winter season brings chilly temperatures, so it is likely that you will use your fireplace a time or two. Before the cold weather rolls in, get your chimney and flue inspected by a professional to ensure that all parts are in working order. This will leave you with peace of mind that using the fireplace will do nothing but keep you warm.