For many, winter is a mere hassle. It’s a hassle to cart around that quilted coat, it’s a hassle to shovel out the driveway in the morning before heading to work, it’s a hassle for the house to go dark by 6 p.m. because of a blizzard power outage.
For the elderly, winter can be much more than a hassle – it can be dangerous. Slippery drives and sidewalks can lead to falls, power outages can leave those without a driver’s license stranded and too much strain while shoveling a driveway can lead to a heart attack.
Julia Anders, co-owner and president of Comfort Keepers Senior Care, which provides in-home care for seniors, shares some tips to make sure the elderly around us are safe during the winter months.
Keep their sidewalks and porches free of ice. Shovel walkways, and sprinkle salt, sand or kitty litter. Especially during the winter months, seniors have gone down their driveway or to check their mail, and they fall and break a hip or a leg, Anders says. Shoveling will also keep seniors who are steadier on their feet from having to shovel themselves. Those older than 65 – especially those with high blood pressure or heart disease – should leave snow shoveling to others, Anders says, because the extra work combined with the cold raises the risk of heart attacks.
Check on elderly friends and family members during power outages, especially those without a driver’s license. During the most recent storm to hit northeast Indiana, Anders says, she called and made hotel reservations for some Comfort Keepers clients because they had nowhere else to go when their electricity went out. Staff members picked up some clients and took them to the hotels.
Make sure their chimneys and flues are inspected yearly and cleaned as needed before winter. Inspect furnaces. These checkups will cut down on the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Similarly, check seniors’ smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace detectors’ batteries annually.
If a senior is using a space heater, be sure there is no loose fabric – bed spreads, curtains, tablecloths – nearby that might catch fire.
In case something does catch fire, make sure a fire extinguisher is handy. Similarly, make sure flashlights have working batteries and candles and matches are easily accessible in case of a power outage.