Keeping Seniors Safe and Warm During Cold Weather

As the temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall, it’s important to ensure our senior loved ones are safe, warm, and comfortable throughout the winter season. According to the EPA, cold-related deaths have been on the rise over the last few years, and seniors are especially at risk.

But there are precautions you can take to help your elderly family members and friends stay safe despite the chilly conditions.

Efficient Home Heating

The first step to ensuring your loved one’s safety is to make sure they can maintain a warm and comfortable home. The best time to have heating systems inspected and repaired, if needed, is before winter arrives — but later is better than not at all.

An HVAC professional can inspect the furnace, clean ducts, change filters, winterize outdoor equipment, and give the system a general tune-up to make sure it can handle the freezing temperatures.

Programmable thermostats can also be a great way to maintain a consistent, comfortable temperature cost-effectively and energy-efficiently. The safe home temperature range for seniors is 65-78° Fahrenheit, and many seniors tend to prefer their homes on the warmer side.

If needed, you can also use space heaters and electric blankets to supplement. Just make sure that any heating devices you use meet safety standards and include features like automatic shut-off and tip switches.

Managing Snow and Ice

Snow and ice can increase the risk of falls, which can be particularly dangerous for seniors. So, if your loved one lives in an area that frequently sees freezing temperatures, ice, and snow, make sure their walkways and driveways are cleared and salted regularly.

A snow removal service, community volunteer program, or even just a neighborhood teen looking for some extra spending money can be a huge help here, as many seniors don’t have the physical capabilities to manage snow and ice cleanup.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

When the use of heating appliances goes up, so does the risk of house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Taking a few minutes to make sure that your loved one’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working correctly and have fresh batteries is a small task that can save lives.

Programs for Heating Bill Assistance

For seniors struggling with heating bills, there are assistance programs available. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps eligible individuals with their heating and cooling costs, and many states, cities, and local communities also have programs designed to help low- or fixed-income individuals with their utility expenses. In addition, most utility companies offer budget billing plans to help manage costs.

Dressing Appropriately

Hypothermia can come on fast, so it’s important to make sure your loved one is dressing appropriately for the weather, especially if they have cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Encourage them to dress in layers, as wearing several light layers can actually be more effective at retaining body heat than one heavy layer. And don’t forget accessories like gloves, scarves, and hats, especially when going outside.

Emergency Kits

It’s a good idea to keep an emergency kit on hand and easily accessible, stocked with essentials like water, non-perishable food, medications, and blankets. Power outages are more common during winter storms, and an emergency kit can be a lifesaver.

Nutrition and Hydration

A balanced diet and staying hydrated are important year-round, but especially during the winter. People typically consider dehydration to be a warm weather issue, but it’s a risk during the cold too, as you’re naturally less thirsty and tend to drink less water.

Soups and stews are great options to keep warm and nourished and get a little extra hydration. Plus, you can make a large batch ahead of time and portion it out for quick, easy meals.

The Importance of Regular Check-Ins

Staying connected with your senior loved one is always important, but it’s especially vital during the winter. A daily phone call or visit can help ensure your loved one’s safety and provide much-needed social interaction to help stave off seasonal depression.

Right Hand Care can provide a helping hand here with our affordable in-home care services. Our compassionate caregivers can assist with daily activities, help ensure your loved one stays safe and warm, and provide simple, caring companionship.

For more information on our services or to set up a care plan, contact us today.

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