Winter can be a dangerous or worrisome time for lots of older adults due to low temperatures, slippery surfaces and unscheduled outages, but with a little forward thinking it doesn’t have to be.
your age or abilities a little winter preparation can go a long way, which is
why we have created this handy winter checklist offering a few suggestions of
how to keep you and your family safe and warm this wintertime.
Book in for a flu jab. A couple of weeks with the flu can be a mild annoyance for most people, but for those who are elderly, ill, disabled or may already have a weakened immune system, the flu can be deadly. What’s more, if you are over 65 years old, are pregnant, have certain medical conditions or are living in a long-stay residential care home the flu jab is entirely free, so why risk it?
Get a health check-up. Pop along and see your doctor if you have any medical concerns – at all. Whether it’s a little dizziness in the morning or an ache behind the knees, we advise you don’t wait for this to get worse over winter, when the ground may be icy or the cold weather may aggravate it.
Stock up the cupboards. People often spend more time indoors during the winter months with little movement, which results in smaller appetites and a less nutritional diet (you’re not the only one!). Start stocking up on a varied supply of food groups and be sure to eat lots of foods rich in Vitamin D to make up for the lack of natural sunlight.
Home is where the ‘heat’ is
Make your home a safe space. Get any broken or drafty windows fixed now, before they become a problem. The money you spend on a new pane of glass will no doubt be a cheaper option than the higher heating bills a drafty window will incur over Christmas.
Install aides. If you have trouble getting yourself up the stairs, consider installing a handrail – inside and outside if needed. Winter weather can be unpredictable and could mean paramedics or family members struggling to get to you in the case of a slip or fall. Handrails will give you the added support and keep you sure footed.
You could also consider upgrading your bathroom with a few handy additions, such as slip-proof mats, grab bars and bath and shower stools. The bathroom is one of the most common places where older adults take a tumble, but with a little prep this can be avoided and help you to live more independently.
Replace your old lightbulbs. Get someone up to check all your lightbulbs, and ideally change them. The last thing you need on a dark wintery night is for the hallway light to go; consider changing your outside bulbs, too.
Check your alarms. Fireplaces, gas heaters and lanterns can all cause carbon monoxide poisoning or a fire, so it’s best to keep a working detector on each floor to keep you safe. As an added insurance, get any fireplaces and chimneys checked to prevent a blocked flue.
Schedule for routine maintenance. If you haven’t already this year, schedule for routine maintenance on your boiler and heating system to ensure it is working properly. If your property has a timed temperature control system, set this to keep your home heated at an ideal temperature.
The recommended temperature is above 21C in living rooms and 18C in bedrooms, but never below 15C. If you’re worried about the cost of heating your home this winter, looking into whether you may be entitled for the government funded Winter Fuel Payment, which provides financial support to help.
Plan ahead for an outage
You will need to consider what would happen in the event of an outage and create an ‘outage pack’. We recommend stocking up on warm blankets, torches with batteries, safe to use candles (and a fully fueled lighter), a warm hat, gloves, a battery powered radio, a portable battery charger (to charge your electrical items) and warm clothing.
Have these to hand, not in the back of a cupboard so you don’t have to fumble in the dark. Perhaps a rucksack on the coatrack would work.
If the power goes out, you might lose any frozen food you have stockpiled for Winter. In preparation you should keep your cupboards stocked with non-perishable foods, such as canned meats, soups, canned fruits and vegetables. Freezing suitable perishable items, such as bread or milk, will also leave you with a few more options.
Before you go…
Get your front garden in order. If you do venture out into the cold the last thing you want is to have to navigate any frosty leaves or hazards. Keep your pathway clear and store a small bag of grit and shovel within easy reach to limit falls and slips. However, lots of shoveling can cause unnecessary strain on your heart, so avoid it at all costs if the job seems too big or ask for help.
Upgrade your wardrobe. Invest in some good, grippy, warm and waterproof shoes to get you through winter. Replace any worn cane or walking stick tips and source a warm, waterproof coat, gloves, scarf and hat.
While we encourage you to stay active, with short walks or by doing some gardening, you should keep any exposed skin covered and never stay outside longer than you need to; if your body temperature drops by just two degrees (from 37C to 35C) you could be at risk of hypothermia.
Dig out your stick. Some people choose to leave their walking stick in the back of the cupboard over the summer, as they find they rely less on it to get about. Don’t be too proud to accept the added support your stick offers over wintertime, especially if you are planning to get out and about.
Prep the car, too. If you still drive and will be using your car over winter, it is important to ensure the car is in the best condition, with a recent maintenance check. If you do break down you should always stay in the car until help arrives; It is likely someone will spot the car before they spot you, so the safest (and warmest) place is inside.
Always check the weather before heading out and store a secondary ‘outage pack’ in your vehicle to keep you warm and safe until help arrives, should you require it.
We appreciate that this is a lengthy list with a lot to consider, but you’re not alone. Many of our branches now offer a range of Home Care services designed to take some of the stress out of your day and make it easier to live independently and happily.
Contact your nearest branch to see if we can help you tick some of these off your winter checklist and ensure you, your home and your car are winter ready.
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