Updated: May 6, 2019
Remember the excitement you felt as a kid when you got a snow day?! Your imagination went wild as you fantasized about the snow fort you would make next to your perfect snow man.
Unfortunately as we age, snow days become less exciting and more of an inconvenience, and sometimes even dangerous. Making sure your car starts, getting someone to look after the kids (who are overjoyed at staying home from school), keeping the house warm without breaking the bank, trying to get to work without getting into an accident with that jerk in the SUV who always travels way too fast in bad weather…
If you have an elderly family member that you care for, the weather causes an even bigger issue as they are at greater risk in snowy conditions and freezing temperatures. Slipping on ice, Winter depression, nutritional deficiency and even carbon monoxide poisoning are major concerns for the elderly during the icy winter months.
Here are 10 safety tips to assist your elderly loved one during the winter season:
1. Set up grocery or (better yet) pre-made meals delivery service
This will ensure that your loved one has the food they need on a regular basis and will take some of the strain off you. Make sure that they are eating a varied diet rich in Vitamin D so as to avoid a deficiency from lack of exposure to the sun. Proteins like salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver and egg yolks, dairy products like milk and cheese, and certain grains and cereals are all Vitamin D rich foods that can prevent any nutritional deficits.
2. Hire a service or young neighbors to shovel or snow blow your family member’s driveway and sidewalks if there’s a storm
Preventing slips and falls is crucial for the elderly in icy conditions. The older you get the more fragile your muscles and bones become, and one small slip could cause major injuries requiring extensive and painful surgery.
3. Make sure their furnace is in working order and turned on
Have a service come out to check the furnace (before there’s an issue) to make sure it’s in working order. Also check the carbon monoxide detector and replace the batteries if necessary.
4. Connect with your loved one’s neighbors
Exchange information with them so that if you’re not able to get to your elderly loved one due to weather conditions, you can contact them to check in on your loved one.
5. Ask younger neighbors if they would mind checking the mail every few days
This will enable your family member to stay inside and avoid the possibility of falling and breaking a hip on the ice.
6. Put a list of emergency numbers on their refrigerator
Include contact numbers for non-emergency police, fire, immediate relatives and neighbors.
7. Create an emergency plan
If you are unable to get to your loved one during a severe winter storm, create a plan that includes who will check in on your loved one during the storm, where they will go in case of a power outage and who will be in charge of coordinating and implementing the plan. Make sure there are working flashlights with extra batteries and warm blankets around the house in case of a power outage.
8. Encourage fluid intake
Heating a home can cause the house to become dry and cause dehydration. Pick up some bottled water to keep in their fridge. Remind them that sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol act as diuretics so interchanging those fluids with water is important.
9. Encourage your elderly loved one to wear layers and avoid going outside if at all possible
If they must go outside, ensure that they wear rubber soled boots/shoes for traction, and use an adaptive device such as a 3 prong cane for support.
10. Look out for Winter Depression in your elderly loved one
The cold and isolation can lead to depression, so it’s important to make regular contact with your loved one, and ask neighbors, friends and other family members to do the same. Regularly check in on elderly relatives, friends and neighbors in person if possible. If you live far away, contact another relative, neighbor or someone from their local church/synagogue who can stop by and check on them.
Read more on Depression in the elderly here:
Written by Author and Keynote Speaker Sue Salach-Cutler. Sue has a Master’s degree in Gerontology and has worked in the healthcare field for over 25 years. She is the Author of “Along Comes Grandpa”, a caregiving resource guide, and the novel “If I Walked in Her Shoes”. Her programs and books provide the vital resources needed to help family caregivers as they maneuver through the caregiving journey. Find out more about her books and programs here: CaregiverLife.com. Adapted from: https://theworkingcaregiver.org