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Six Tips for Caring for your Elderly Loved Ones in Winter

As the Temperatures Drop, Needs Rise

It can be wonderful to have the wherewithal to keep an elderly loved one in their home during the twilight years, but it can also present some problems. Winter in the Northeast can exacerbate those problems, especially when trying to keep your loved one active. It isn’t impossible though, as long you know how to deal with the winter weather and how aging bodies handle the cold. It’s not just outdoor excursions to consider, there are several things to think about inside the home as well. Since your elderly loved one may not have the knowledge or physical capability to address some of these concerns, it’s up to you as the caregiver to ensure they are taken care of.

Service the Heating System

This is something that should be done regardless of the age of the home, the system, or the homeowner! Many heating systems can be serviced by the company that supplies the oil/gas/electricity that powers the system. Be sure to have chimneys cleaned if you have an oil-fired heating system or if you use wood or coal to heat the home.

Keeping all of these items serviced will help reduce the risk of fire by limiting the need for extra heaters. Space heaters (are) involved in 79 percent of fatal home heating fires. When chimneys are clean, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is also lowered.

winter care tips for elderly loved ones

Change Batteries

Before the cold weather hits, change all the batteries in the following items:

  1. Flashlights. Keep one in the bedroom and at least one other somewhere conveniently located in the house.
  2. Smoke Detectors. At least one of these should be hard wired, but all battery-operated detectors should have fresh batteries.
  3. Carbon Monoxide Detector. One near the furnace and one near the fireplace or any other source of flame.
  4. Radio. Yes, a radio. If the power is out for any length of time, the internet, and possibly cell phone service will go as well.

Power Outage Preparations

The best way to stay warm if the power goes out is to fly to Florida. If this is not an option, keep a pile of blankets in a handy place along with that extra flashlight. Be sure to stock up on bottled water and nutritious snacks, such as granola bars. Along with the snacks, be sure to have crackers, bread, peanut butter, and canned goods that don’t require refrigeration or cooking.

Winter Auto Safety

We all know that driving in the ice and snow is dangerous and should be avoided, but we also all know that our elderly loved ones may need to make it to their doctor appointments no matter the weather. The best way to deal with this is to do the driving for them (or have the in-home caregiver drive). No matter who does the driving, try to have the list below in the car before venturing out in winter weather:

  • First aid kit
  • Blankets
  • Extra warm clothes
  • Booster cables
  • Windshield scraper
  • Shovel
  • Rock salt or a bag of sand or cat litter (in case your wheels get stuck)
  • Water and dried food or canned food (with can opener!)
  • Flashlight
  • Map (if traveling in new areas)

Dress Warmly

Layers. That is the secret to staying warm. The great thing about wearing many layers of lighter clothing is that you can remove one or two if it’s warmer than expected. If you only have two layers, removing one just isn’t an option. If you, or your elderly parent, isn’t dressed warm enough and begins to complain of numbness or is shivering uncontrollably, get to a warm place quickly. Hypothermia can kill and our older loved ones are more susceptible to the cold than we are. Make yourself familiar with the warning signs!

Shoveling and treating icy sidewalks

If your elderly loved one lives alone, shoveling after a big snow may be daunting, if not life threatening. If you are not able to get to their house to shovel their driveway and walkways, try to enlist a neighbor or teen to help them out. Shoveling and snow blowing are strenuous exercises that should only be done by the able-bodied. Also, have salt available for icy steps and walkways to prevent falls!
The best way to keep folks safe though is to simply visit them. Drop in and make sure they have plenty of food, their prescriptions are filled and won’t run out, and most importantly of all, that they are loved. We understand that distance and busy schedules can make regular visits difficult; we’re here to help! Click here to learn more about our in-home companion care services.