Six Ways to Help Seniors Stay Safe in the WinterWith the wintry weather here, senior citizens face additional challenges in preparing for, and responding to, issues like power and communication outages, icy surfaces, and lack of heat. Experts recommend that they and their adult children, neighbors or caregivers, do some simple pre-planning to protect their safety during the winter.
Prepare Well Ahead of Winter
"Seniors need to prepare for winter long before it arrives so they have safety and mobility plans in place," says Andrea Cohen, CEO of HouseWorks (www.house-works.com), a home care company dedicated to helping seniors live independently. "Snow and ice, cold temperatures, and heating devices are all potential safety hazards that result in a number of accidents every year. Minor additions or changes to a senior's home can minimize the risk of an accident and create a dramatically safer environment."
In order to keep seniors safe, Cohen strongly suggests conducting a safety inventory well before the weather becomes challenging. She recommends the following:
- Snow and ice. Many seniors can't safely remove the snow and ice on their property or in front of their door. Make sure that someone is available to shovel snow and remove ice for them on a regular basis, to guarantee they can safely exit and enter their home, and that their dryer vents and gutters are cleared as well.
- Supplies. Cold weather or heavy snow can drastically impact a senior's mobility. Is somebody available to help do the grocery shopping? Does the senior have enough food and medication to last for several days, in case weather makes streets impassible or affects electricity? In addition, make sure there are handy flashlights and batteries, in case of power outages.
- Fire hazards. Seniors sometimes rely on heating pads or space heaters to provide additional warmth during the winter months. Unchecked or unattended items like these — as well as candles, old electric cables and outlets — can become fire hazards. Check, then remove or repair unsafe items, and put fresh batteries into smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Communication. Are all important phone numbers — family members, food delivery, health care providers – posted in a convenient and visible place, such as the refrigerator? Is the telephone easily accessible? Will it work if the power is out? Keeping a mobile phone charged for emergencies will help ensure communication even if the power is out. There are easy-to-use mobile phones for seniors who are not comfortable with technology.
- Support system. If a senior's family lives far away, it's a good idea to arrange for a friend or neighbor to check on them from time to time. For emergencies, consider a medical alert system that can ensure immediate response to an emergency situation. Last winter reminded us that weather can affect heat and electricity for days — in some drastic cases, weeks — at a time. Make sure that you've identified a safe place for shelter if the heat or electricity are out for an extended period, and that there is a plan in place to get there. Sign up for grocery delivery service.
- Home modification. As you prepare for winter, remember non-seasonal safety issues as well. Can the senior move easily around at his or her place and safely use all facilities, or are modifications necessary? Home modifications such as grab bars, hand-held showers, or furniture and rug rearrangement can make the home a safer place.
Small changes can make a big impact when it comes to a senior's independence. Now is the perfect time to make those changes before Mother Nature creates her own mischief this winter season. For more information, go to www.house-works.com.
Based in Newton, Massachusetts and Bethesda, Maryland, HouseWorks is a private-pay home care company dedicated to helping seniors live independently. Known for flexibility, reliability and responsiveness, HouseWorks operates with an innovative, customer-driven approach to service delivery that returns a sense of control to adult children and their parents.
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