For older adults who live in northern climates, winter can be a harsh time that presents multiple challenges.
Seniors aging-in-place at home may need special assistance preparing for the bitter temperatures and changes the season brings. Frozen pipes and slippery sidewalks are a few of the hazards snowfall, ice, sleet, and chilly temperatures bring.
Winterizing your loved one’s home is an important process that involves assessing hazards, risk for falls, and ensuring he or she has the basic essentials to stay safe, secure, and comfortable through the colder months.
Here is a guide to easy home winterization:
- Repair uneven sidewalks and walkways immediately. Unequal turf poses a fall risk in normal weather conditions and is amplified in the presence of ice.
- Bundle up! Remove wool blankets and warm bedding materials from storage. Replace clothing in bedroom drawers with warmer articles such as thick socks, long johns, and flannel. Place outdoor gear (scarves, gloves, ear muffs, hat) near the front door to make it easy for your loved one or in-home caregivers to remember to dress up for heading outside into the cold.
- Test the heating system. Take a look at the condition of the filters and make sure that the heating system runs. Cleaning the furnace can help prevent fires as well as lower energy costs. Close heating vents in any rooms that are not used to ensure heating is maximized in the areas where your loved one spends the most time.
- Check outdoor faucets to make sure they are fully turned off. Leaking spigot can create icy surfaces in the cold, making it more likely your loved one could slip and fall.
- Seal drafts and properly insulate. Add extra insulation in the attic to prevent the hot air from escaping the home and to exposed pipes to keep them from freezing. Install weather strips around doors and windows to seal drafts. Shut any major holes or cracks with caulk.
- Prepare for de-icing and snow removal. Icy sidewalks and driveways pose one of the greatest hazards to seniors living at home during the winter. Create a plan in advance for keeping the sidewalk de-iced: purchase a supply of melting salt and have the phone numbers of winter snow removal specialists on hand if you plan to hire help. Purchase your loved one shoes with non-slip soles for times when they need to walk outside.
- Install a programmable thermostat in the home. Eliminating the need to fidget with the temperature is helpful for persons with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease and, because most systems have a lock feature, avoids accidental temperature extremes that could jeopardize your loved one’s health.
- Have a portable heater. If your loved one needs extra heat in a particular location of the house, purchasing a portable heater is an expensive and energy efficient option. When using space heaters, make sure flammable items such as curtains and bedding are kept far away.
- Check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working. Make sure all units have functioning batteries.
Who can help with winterizing seniors’ homes?
Home care agencies, senior concierge services, volunteer organizations, and community groups offer home Winterizations services.
What tips can you share for aging-in-place home safety during the Winter months?