Extreme weather conditions like snow, ice, and heavy rain make the winter months a challenging time, especially for seniors and their caregivers. Winter storms make traveling difficult, and many businesses close temporarily. In order to make winter storms less stressful, we’ve created a list of 10 ways caregivers can prepare aging adults for winter weather.
1. Schedule an appointment to have the heating system inspected. Many people neglect regular maintenance checks on their heating and air-conditioning systems. If the seniors you care for own their home, schedule an annual maintenance appointment to have the heating system inspected. Schedule the appointment before the winter season begins so that all issues can be taken care of while the weather is still warm. Ask the maintenance person to check for insulation leaks and poor ventilation in addition to inspecting the heating system. These small issues can lead to larger problems if they are not properly handled.
2. Purchase extra winter clothing and blankets, if needed. Severe winter storms can cause power outages, which means that those you care for will need to bundle up indoors. Make sure they are equipped with jackets, hats, gloves, and warm socks. It is also a good idea to have blankets in the rooms where those you care for like to spend most of their time. This way blankets are easily available to them wherever they are in house.
3. Stock-up on medications and medical devices. Make sure the aging adults you're caring for have at least a seven-day supply of their medications. Keeping a list of their medications along with the dose, frequency, and contact information for their prescribing doctors and pharmacists is a great resource to have when preparing for winter storms. It is also a good idea to keep back-ups of wheel chair batteries, oxygen, and other medical devices.
4. Place emergency supplies in an easy-to-access place. Planning for a power outage during winter storms is very important. Have a discussion with the seniors you care for to decide the best place to store emergency supplies, including batteries, a radio, and flashlights. Store the emergency supplies in an easy-to-access and central location in the house. Also, stock up on extra toiletries like toilet paper, toothpaste, and hand soap.
5. Keep an extra supply of shelf-stable meals handy. Ensure the pantry is well stocked with canned items and other foods with long shelf lives that do not require refrigeration. Consider signing the seniors you're caring for up for a home-delivered meals program. Meal providers, such as GA Foods, deliver shelf-stable meals to the home...even during bad weather!
6. Winterize all vehicles. It is best to avoid driving during storms. However, if the aging adult in your care must travel, make sure their car is winterized. Take their car to the mechanic to have it inspected. Check the antifreeze levels, make sure the heater and defroster are working properly, put winter tires on the car, and store an emergency kit containing a windshield scraper, hats, mittens, a blanket, jumper cables, food, water, and a shovel, in the back seat.
7. Educate your members on heating their home and potential fire hazards. Make sure the people you are caring for feel comfortable operating their heating system. If they struggle to remember the steps, write down instructions on a sheet of paper and tape it on the wall near the thermostat. If they tend to be extra chilly during the winter months teach them how to use their space heaters and fireplaces, if they have them. Find a good place to put the space heater so that it is not near any curtains or other objects that could be a potential fire hazard.
8. Create an emergency contact list. Winter storms and severe weather conditions can lead to road closures and fallen trees and power lines, making it difficult to check in on the seniors in your care. Get to know their neighbors. Make a contact information sheet with friends and family who live close by, as well as neighbors. You may also consider giving a few trusted friends or neighbors a key to their home to check in on them in the event that you cannot.
9. Plan for the animals. If the seniors you're caring for have animals, make sure they have enough food and medications for their pets as well. Research volunteer organizations close by; some cities have volunteer organizations that help seniors take care of their animals.
10. Store road salt in the garage. Black ice lingers long after winter storms pass. Regularly check to make sure the driveway and sidewalks around the senior's home have been salted, especially if they walk outside to get their mail, so they don't slip and fall.Winter storms can happen without warning. Be prepared and eliminate unnecessary stress by downloading our prepartion tip sheet, contact and medication information chart, and winter weather supplies checklist.