As the days grow shorter and colder, it’s important to prepare for the season. This doesn’t just mean bringing the houseplants in and getting the fireplace cleaned. It also means making sure your elder relatives and loved ones are prepared for the winter.
If you have elder relatives who live independently:
- Do they have someone who will come over and clear walkways, driveways & outside steps when there is snowfall? Do they have an alternative person if needed?
- Do they have a good supply of toiletries, batteries, medicines, water, and canned or dry food? Experts say you should always have 3-5 days worth of supplies on hand. And you always want to make sure the food & medicines your elder loved ones have on hand is unexpired & in good condition.
- Has their heating system been inspected & serviced recently? Are their smoke, CO2, and Radon detectors operational with fresh batteries? If they have a fireplace, has it been checked out recently?
- Remove dangerous items like candles, heated blankets, space heaters, matches & lighters from home. Items like these can trigger fires if used improperly or if forgotten about. Better to remove them from home than risk tragedy.
- Ask for the contact info of a neighbor who can check on them if needed.
If you have elder relatives who live in a managed care facility:
- Call the facility and ask about their severe weather plans. What happens when a major snowstorm strikes? Do they have backup generators? Do they provide accommodations for their employees so they can ride out the storm at the facility rather than be stranded at home, unable to help? How many days’ worth of supplies do they have on hand in the event the roads are closed?
- You should also inquire about winter activities at the facility. Seasonal affective disorder afflicts seniors, too. A good facility will have a host of activities & events to keep residents occupied during the winter. And a donation of games, toys, movies, music, or other activities will almost always be generously accepted.
- Make sure your loved one has warm, comfortable & well-fitting winter gear. Many seniors get very attached to articles of clothing, but sometimes you need to be firm about replacing sub-standard items.
The winter may not be that bad yet, but the time to ask these questions is before the weather turns, not after.