Can you feel the chill in the air? Winter is rolling in over our hometown of Chicago — which means it’s an important opportunity to stock up, plan ahead, and take some simple actions to help your senior loved one prepare their home for winter!
Winter Home Safety Ideas for Seniors and Caregivers
Here in Chicago, we’re famous for our bitterly cold and snowy winters — and we know firsthand that the frostiest months of the year can be difficult for older adults to manage alone.
The dark and dreary weather can lead to cabin fever and feelings of isolation. Meanwhile, research shows that older adults have more difficulty adjusting to changing temperatures, and are at increased risk for hypothermia. Seniors are one of the most at-risk populations during periods of extreme weather, while everyday challenges such as snow and ice patches can increase the likelihood of suffering from a damaging slip or fall.
One of the most important ways that older adults can get ready for winter is to focus on their homes. Aging in place offers older adults significant cost savings and a higher quality of life, but it also comes with the responsibility of making sure that home is a safe, comfortable, and secure environment.
Curious about what you can do to make sure your elderly loved one’s home is safe and prepped for winter? Here are six important steps to take as we head for the cold season:
1.) Stock Up on Winter Supplies
Winter weather can lead to unexpected power outages, and make it hard for older adults to get out of the house for hours or even days at a time. To make sure your loved one is ready for whatever winter sends our way, be sure to stock up on essential supplies, including:
- Non-perishable food. Experts recommend focusing on foods that are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, grains and seafood options like tuna and salmon.
- Blankets, robes, and warm indoor clothing
- Salt and ice remover
- Shovel and snowblower
- Fully stocked first-aid kit
- Parts for medical devices (such as new rubber tips for canes, or spare batteries for hearing aids)
- Emergency rations of over-the-counter supplements and prescription medicines
- Battery-operated radio
- Cleaning supplies
- Hand warmers
- Bottled water
2.) Take Care of Fall and Winter Home Maintenance and Weatherproofing
Before winter is in full force, take time to help your senior loved one take care of important home projects:
- Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are fully functional
- Have HVAC systems inspected and serviced by a professional; change furnace filters
- Have fireplace and chimney serviced by a professional
- Find drafts and add caulk or weatherstripping to seal loose windows and doors
- Clean out the gutters to avoid issues with runoff during winter storms
- Insulate exposed plumbing and the home’s hot water heater to avoid frozen pipes and increase energy efficiency
- Look for signs of leaks, water damage, and other potential issues and have them examined by a professional
- Check on the insulation in the home’s attic, crawlspaces, and basement to make sure it is functional and energy efficient
- Cover furniture and outdoor decor, or move it indoors
- Make sure that the household car is ready to go — with plenty of oil and wiper fluid, winter tires, a fully charged battery, an ice scraper, and so on.
3.) Find a Safe and Comfortable Home Temperature
Finding a safe and comfortable home temperature for seniors is often more easily said than done. Generally speaking, experts recommend keeping the thermostat set to 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer during the winter months. 68 degrees is considered a “goldilocks” zone, which is neither too warm nor too cold.
To make sure that your loved one is getting a healthy supply of clean, warm air, you can also take simple steps such as:
- Setting up a humidifier to counter the effects of dry air
- Adding houseplants to help purify the air in the home
- Cleaning dust, debris, hair and other allergens from vents and furnace filters
- Installing a smart thermostat for ease-of-use and energy savings
For more information, check out our guide: “What Is a Safe Home Temperature for Seniors?”
4.) Have Reliable Shoveling and Ice Removal Ready to Go
Icy sidewalks and snowy paths are major slip-and-fall hazards to the elderly. During the winter months, it’s important to make sure there’s always a clear path in and out of your loved one’s home. Make sure that your older family members have someone nearby who can check in on them during tough difficult weather, while also helping them throw down salt and shovel out before and after winter storms — especially when you can’t be there in person.
If your elderly loved one insists on taking care of things themselves, make it easier on them by equipping them with a snowblower, and taking time to go over safe shoveling techniques early in the season.
5.) Break Out the Winter Wardrobe
Many people look forward to the changing of the seasons, as a chance to swap out one set of clothing for another. As fall turns into winter, this means hanging up lighter clothing and breaking out winter-ready gear. Here’s what seniors should have on hand to dress comfortably and safely for frosty conditions:
- Multiple layers of warm, light, waterproof clothing that covers as much exposed skin as possible
- Safe and reliable footwear with non-skid soles
- Thick socks
- A warm scarf to cover the neck
- A thick winter hat
- Gloves or mittens that cover the entire hand
- Sunscreen and sunglasses to counterbalance harsh winter glare
Make sure your loved one quickly changes out of damp clothes when they come indoors, in order to avoid the possibility of suffering from hypothermia.
6.) Minimize Trip and Fall Risks In the Home
An older adult is hospitalized for a fall roughly once every 11 seconds. Falls are a serious concern among older adults, and winter conditions can make the risk of suffering from a damaging accident even greater.
Fortunately, there are some key steps you can take to help minimize this threat to your older loved ones:
- Take stock of the household’s lighting, to make sure that it is clear, bright, and accessible. This is particularly important during winter, when the sun sets earlier in the day.
- Add a non-slip door mat to the front entrance.
- Reorganize furniture and get rid of clutter to minimize the risk of tripping or experiencing an accident.
- Consider adding enhanced safety features in strategic places around your loved one’s home — including grab bars, hand-rails, ramps, an elevated toilet, a stair-lift, and so on.
Ready to Make Winter Easier for the Seniors In Your Life? We’re Here to Help
A long, cold winter can be a serious challenge — both for Chicago’s seniors, and for the family caregivers who love and care for them. Remember, you don’t have to go through the winter months alone! There are lots of ways to get your loved one some additional help and support, and many resources out there ready to step in and help make things easier — including reliable companion care services, offered by Companions for Seniors.
Our trained and bonded companions can make having a healthy and safe winter easier with:
- Safe and reliable driving services for outings, errands, and appointments
- Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Practical housekeeping and laundry help
- Assistance with meal prep — including food shopping, preparation, and service
- Help with holiday celebrations and enriching winter activities
- Friendship and social support (such as playing games, sharing meals, going on outings, and more)
- Dependable medication and exercise reminders
Interested in getting help as the winter freeze settles over the Chicago region? We are here for you.
Our companions can help your family shoulder some of the responsibilities of caring for an aging loved one. We are locally owned and operated in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for those busy family caregivers who might need some support. Our companions help stimulate our clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, empowering them to live an active and enriched lifestyle in the comfort and safety of home.
In these unusual times, we are continuing to focus on keeping our clients and our staff safe and healthy, with strict COVID protocols in place.
Have any more questions about helping older adults make the most of winter in Chicago? Ready to get started? Get in touch online using our handy online portal, or give us a call at 866-910-9020 today!