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Snow Woes: Safety Tips for Caring for Seniors in the Winter

There’s no sight quite like a winter wonderland, but the reality of a cold, blustery and snow-covered landscape brings along many challenges for seniors and their caregivers. And, while the weather outside is frightful, it’s important to keep in mind that conditions inside of the home may not be so delightful either. Power outages, hypothermia and icy conditions are just a few on a long list of hazards to consider as the temperature drops. Here are some tips for winterizing your caregiving routine for senior safety this season.

Temperature control

According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal body temperature rests around 98.6 F. Hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls below 95 F and is a major concern for seniors as temps fall. When indoors, keep the home at a steady and warm temperature. As a proactive measure, ensure all heating devices work and have been properly serviced before the winter is in full swing. Don’t worry if you haven’t yet this season. It’s not too late. Also, make sure that all thermostats are easy to read and simple to use so that loved ones can manage the temperature and adjust as needed. In many instances, even when the household temperature is maintained, there can be areas of the home that are drafty, causing them to use a space heater. If using a space heater is a must, make sure they know to keep it at least three feet away from any flammable objects such as curtains, blankets, etc., and help ensure they’re getting their carbon monoxide and smoke detectors checked regularly.

Handling hazardous conditions outdoors

Sometimes, going outdoors simply cannot be avoided. When temperatures are dangerously low, layering is key for temperature control and avoiding frostbite. A coat, hat, scarf, gloves and insulated footwear are the must-haves of winter gear. Basically, keep as much skin covered as possible.

Beyond the temperature, hazards such as ice and snow lurk all around the perimeter of the home during inclement weather. Be sure to help shovel all walkways and remove snow from steps and hand railings. Don’t forget to salt and sand the cleared areas to keep them from getting slippery.

Emergency preparedness

When it comes to weather, it’s always a good idea to expect the unexpected. Power outages, downed telephone lines and a loss of central heating can leave care recipients as well as caregivers in a tight spot. In case of a power outage, be sure they have flashlights, candles, water and non-perishable foods on hand. If central heating is temporarily cut off, have plenty of blankets and layers of clothing easily accessible to keep them warm. In advance of a storm, make sure they charge their cell phone in case landlines are not available. Should your loved one have to leave home in the case of an emergency, make sure in advance that their car has been serviced properly and that they have a blanket, food, water, a window scraper and snow brush in the trunk.

Just as any season, the winter should be enjoyed, but it does have a tendency to take the daily routines of caregivers and care recipients by storm. But with a few proactive measures, you can regain control inch by inch.

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