Here in Chicago, the temperature outside may be dropping — but that doesn’t mean that the pace of life needs to slow down. While winter is often thought of as the deep freeze around here, the coldest months of the year can also provide a wonderful opportunity for elderly adults and family caregivers to get to work on fun projects around the house.
Ready to make this the season of taking on projects and tackling your DIY goals — while staying safe and cozy along the way? Here are ten projects and ideas perfect for caregivers and older adults aging in place to take on during winter:
1.) Update Your Contact List and Phone Tree
Spending more time at home? Now is a great time to review your contact information and phone tree records. Go through your existing contact lists to review or update people’s personal information, email addresses, and phone numbers as necessary. Refresh your emergency list to include any new points of contact, such as your preferred pharmacy or any new healthcare providers. Make sure you prepare multiple copies of your emergency contact list; pass around this information to the people who need it in your caregiving network; and hang a finalized list in a spot that will be easy to see during an emergency, such as on your fridge or right next to the phone.
2.) Review and Restock Your Winter Supplies
For seniors and caregivers, it’s always a good idea to have an emergency preparedness kit ready to go. That’s particularly true for the winter months, when extreme weather can trap you indoors or lead to unexpected problems. At the beginning of the season, help your loved one take an inventory of the winter supplies they have on hand, and consider restocking any essentials they do not have available. Do they have extra canned food? Batteries? Road salt? Blankets? Candles and flashlights? Is their first-aid kit fully stocked? Are their shovels and snowblowers still functional? Do they have sturdy winter boots and plenty of warm clothes?
3.) Get Rid of Clutter Around the House
Clutter is a common sight around many homes here in Chicago. While a little messiness is a fact of life, it can be particularly problematic for older adults. Clutter can create a slip and fall hazard, and make it harder for seniors to get around. Similarly, piles of clutter can become a breeding ground for allergens such as dust and mold. As you hunker down for the winter, work with your loved one to get rid of unwanted objects around their home. Be patient, and recognize that this may take some stopping and starting along the way. To make things easier, consider working from room to room or category by category. Start with the highest priority issues, and then move down the list as your loved one warms up to the process. For example, you might start by helping your loved one get rid of old or expired food from their fridge and pantry, and then gradually work up to a trickier zone such as their bedroom or home office.
4.) Make a Warm, Comfortable Blanket or Heating Pad
Looking for a fulfilling project that will also help you stay warm and comfortable, all winter long? Consider sitting down with your loved one to work on a blanket. You could patch together a quilt, make a throw out of old fleece shirts, or crochet a large bedspread from scratch. For extra coziness, consider making some DIY personal heating pads — such as a handy hot water bottle, or a reusable heating pad made from cloth and rice.
5.) Get Rid of Unpleasant Odors Around the House
Spending more time indoors might cause you to start noticing unpleasant odors you would otherwise let slide. For a more comfortable winter at home, help your elderly loved one with a “smell test” of their home. Look for sources of unwanted odors and get rid of them. Common culprits often include dirty trash cans, expired food, or excess moisture around the house. From there, you can look for fresh ways to add new scents around the home. There are lots of DIY remedies using everything from coffee beans to lemons. You could harness the power of essential oils with plug-ins and diffusers. When you’re around to help, you could also consider lighting a candle, setting out incense, or creating a fragrant seasonal “simmer pot” on the stove.
6.) Change Your Air Filters
When was the last time you changed the furnace filter in your loved one’s home? Most experts agree that this should be done at least once every one to three months. This simple DIY task can help improve the energy efficiency and longevity of your HVAC systems, while also ensuring that you get a steady supply of clean, fresh air free from allergens and dust.
7.) Test Your Alarm Systems
Studies suggest that 71% of smoke alarms fail due to battery issues, so always be sure to test and replace them on a regular basis. A great way to remember to test and potentially service your home’s alarm systems? Try to tackle this task every year when you set your clocks forward and back in spring and fall. Practice proper safety when using a ladder. Always have a spotter, and don’t overextend your reach.
8.) Update Your Lighting
Dark winter days and long nights can really serve to highlight the importance of proper lighting! This is particularly true for households with elderly residents, who may have trouble seeing in dim lighting. Take time to make sure that your senior loved one’s lights are clear and bright in every room. Replace burnt out lightbulbs, add nightlights in high-traffic areas, and consider adding “smart lighting,” which can be set to a timer or controlled by voice. As you replace your lightbulbs, it may also be a prime time to consider energy efficient upgrades. Studies suggest that residential LED light bulbs use 75% less energy and may last 25 times longer than incandescent lights — which can save money and make your life easier for years to come.
9.) Add a Few New Finishing Touches
Winter can be a great time to make a big impact through little changes. What quick cosmetic projects have you been putting off? For example, the winter months can be a great opportunity to add new paint colors in a few key places; hang new artwork; frame or catalog those treasured family photos; replace doorknobs or cabinet handles; or rearrange furniture in the bedroom or living room to increase your senior loved one’s safety and comfort.
10.) Get Crafty and Creative
Winter can be a wonderful chance for people of all ages to discover a new hobby, or pick up an old one. This is the season to indulge all your favorite ideas. Paint, bake, scrapbook, write letters, pick up an instrument, try indoor gardening… there’s no shortage of fun projects and activities you can enjoy during the winter months! Looking to get crafty around the house? Start with these great guides from Country Living and Good Housekeeping for inspiration and ideas.
Want to Make the Make the Most of Winter? We’re Here to Help
Winter can be a challenging time — but it is also an opportunity to get cozy, discover new activities and hobbies, and really enjoy the chance to spend your quality time at home.
Looking to provide your senior loved one with the personalized care they need to truly thrive during the chilly days of winter? Have any questions about helping your loved one stay safe and healthy while remaining independent during the frostiest months of the year? We’re here and ready to help!
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home, by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home. We are proudly locally owned in the Chicago area, with service available in the city and suburbs.
Have any questions about helping your senior loved ones age in place? Ready to learn more about the benefits of companion care during winter? We’re here to offer guidance and provide support, in whatever way we can! Don’t hesitate to get in touch online or give us a call at 866-910-9020 to get the conversation started.