Slippery sidewalks. Freezing temperatures. Power outages. Winter isn’t always a wonderland. If you regularly lend a hand to a senior friend or family member here in Maryland, it may be a good time of the year to provide some extra support. Read on to learn some ways you may be able to help.
Falls are a serious concern for everyone when conditions are slick, but especially for seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults over the age of 65 falls once a year, and 20-30 percent of those falls result in decreased mobility.
That means keeping walkways—both inside and outside clear as possible. Indoors, keep clutter and electrical cords tucked away, and provide loved ones with non-slip socks, slippers and mats.
Outdoors, keep sidewalks and driveways shoveled and de-iced. If you aren’t able to do it yourself, hire someone, and check to be sure it’s done in a timely manner.
If you’re still worried about falls, consider having loved ones wear an electronic emergency call device.
Staying Safe at Home
Drops in body temperature or being overly hungry or thirsty can impose risk.
You can help by regularly monitoring the heat settings in seniors’ homes to ensure they are warm and comfortable. Keep all furniture, decorations, blankets, newspapers and other items away from heat vents, radiators and other heat sources. And, remember that improper use of a space heater can be dangerous. Also test that fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly, have fresh batteries, and are loud enough to hear.
When it comes to the pantry, make sure it’s stocked with food and water that’s within easy reach. Keep an eye on these supplies to ensure meals aren’t being skipped.
In case of emergencies, also make sure non-perishable food, water, extra medications, blankets, flashlights and batteries are on hand.
Riding Out the Storm
If a storm is coming and a loved one is either physically disabled or has an impaired memory, stay overnight or arrange for someone else to do so. When it’s not possible to be there physically, check in often by phone.
Staying inside during and after a winter storm is the ideal scenario for seniors, who—like most of us—shouldn’t drive when it’s snowy and icy. If they do require transportation, arrange it for them.
If the power goes out, be sure loved ones have a safe way to stay warm or a safe place to go.
Above all, keep in mind that the type of support your loved ones need this winter may be different from the past winter. If their health, memory, mobility or eyesight has changed dramatically in recent months, you’ll want to be there for them more often. And, if they spend a lot of time alone or are less active than usual, watch for signs of seasonal affective disorder.
Remember, you know your loved ones and what they need best, so be sure to cater to their individual needs, as well as their overall health and well-being. They’ll be thankful you’re there for them this winter.
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