If you have a senior parent living alone, safety is always a concern when considering their independence and well-being. Winter brings extra challenges, so it’s important to have a plan for winter safety.
What should you consider? Safety risks inside and outside the home, mobility challenges, and reduced access to important services and social connections.
Here are some items you can discuss with your senior parent or check on when you visit:
Inside the home:
- Make sure the home is warm enough and doors are sealing easily and well even as the temperature changes.
- If they have a fireplace, have it checked to ensure it’s working properly and there are no safety or ventilation concerns.
- Ensure they test their smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector as winter can sometimes create poor ventilation in homes.
- Have their furnace checked and serviced as needed.
- Make sure they have a good supply of sidewalk de-icer and sand to keep walks and pathways safe.
- Look at providing smaller, lighter shovels, and ergonomic designs that reduce risk of strain or injury if your senior parent still wants to clear small amounts of snow themselves.
- Look into professional snow removal services, or check neighbourhood listings for people offering occasional snow removal to ensure driveways stay clear.
- Help them organize routine maintenance and checks on roofs, and gutters.
- Discuss their routine for medical and other necessary appointments. Do they need someone to accompany them during the winter months?
- How do they stay social and avoid isolation? It’s important to maintain a sense of community, and in winter it can be challenging for seniors to get out as much. How will they stay connected? If some activities are too difficult to get to in winter, what will replace them?
- Do any of their regular shopping stops offer delivery? If not, can you find one that does? Having groceries or pharmacy purchases delivered in bad weather could make a huge difference in a senior’s ability to wait out poor weather.
- Encourage them to keep a good supply of staples and necessary medications in the home in winter so that if a storm hits, they can stay inside for a few days if needed.
- If they use a cane or walker to ensure they have appropriate spike tips added.
- Seniors are at a higher risk of slips and falls in winter as icy sidewalks and uneven, snowy surfaces create regular hazards. Make sure they have proper footwear to wear to walk safely, and mats inside doorways to avoid slipping on wet surfaces.
- Hypothermia is also a greater risk to seniors, so be sure they have everything they need to dress warmly when they do need to go out.
- Frostbite is a concern during the most severe weather – be sure seniors are aware of conditions and not risking the worst days. Talk to their doctor about what medications, health conditions, and other factors increase their risk.
- How will more independent seniors keep moving and look after themselves if they can’t get out regularly? If your senior parent likes to get out for fresh air or a bit of gentle exercise, what can they safely choose instead during winter months? Stretching or light exercise or arranging a ride to a senior’s wellness centre or local community centre might help.
- Have a communication plan laid out in advance. Who will they call if they need help? Ensure they have names and phone numbers of family and friends who are close by, and that you do too. Discuss in advance who might be able to help in which situation – a friendly neighbour might be willing to lend a hand to clear a driveway, while you might prefer they call you first should the furnace stop working.
- Help them stay aware of weather conditions by ensuring they have easy access to updated information. This may mean bookmarking the highway road conditions website on their computer, or downloading a simple weather app onto their phone and showing them how to use it.
- If they have a cell phone, make sure they keep it consistently charged, and consider supplying them with a portable charger or two. In event of a power outage or interruption to landlines, it’s good to have a fully charged phone and backup battery to keep the lines of communication open.
- Make use of In Case of Emergency (ICE) programs or apps that enable first responders, such as paramedics, firefighters and police officers, as well as hospital personnel, to contact the next of kin of the owner of a working mobile phone to obtain important medical or support information, like phone numbers to next of kin. The phone entry or entries are intended to supplement or complement written information in a wallet or on a marked bracelet or necklace.
When it comes to keeping seniors safe in the winter, it often comes down to planning, communication, and having someone checking in on them regularly.
If you are concerned about a senior in your family, for any reason, why not take our senior care assessment? It may give you some much needed perspective.
Have questions or feedback on what you just read? Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to chat with you.
~ Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary team