In the same way that a car owner makes sure a vehicle used in winter is prepared for the challenges of cold, snow, ice and other aspects of inclement weather, so should seniors make sure that they have had a similar winter check up. This includes doing everything for their “medical” safety but assuring also that their environment is also safe. And this so far sever winter seems to be especially a threat for many seniors.
Medical safety includes making sure that the risk of illness that are more common in winter are taken care of in anticipation of winter’s special challenges. On top of the list is vaccination against influenza which is necessary every year, as the strains of virus changes from year to year. Even though sometimes the yearly outbreak is mild you will never know in advance what kind of outbreak might occur. For seniors who may have an array of chronic illness affecting their cardiac and respiratory systems or have impairments of their immune responses, a bout of influenza, can cause a very serious and debilitating illness and at times can be fatal. As a child of an aging parent it might be your role to make sure that your parent and the treating physician are aware of the importance of such vaccination.
Other safety check-points
Other safety check points include reviewing all necessary medications that are taken by your parent and review them with your parents’ physician. Make sure that there are refill orders already available so that there isn’t a chance that your parent may run out of necessary medications during inclement weather. If your parent(s) are fortunate enough to vacation in the south for part of the winter make sure that they have the necessary supply of medications.
Check with any travel insurance provider that travel insurance is in place and that you have determined that there is no risk that should something medically happen to you while traveling that you will not discover that your insurance did not cover that eventuality: the general rule is that you must reveal to the insurance company all your illnesses and any changes in your medical status and medications prior to your trip.
What about the cold of winter?
If you will be staying put in the Northern United States or Canada the important steps for winter home safety should be taken. Whoever it is that takes care of your parents heating system should make sure that maintenance servicing is done well in advance of winter to avoid the risk of a breakdown during a cold spell that could potentially put your parent(s) at risk. Determine what the network of family supports is and if there will be an periods of absence and what steps might be taken to fill in which could be very important should something unanticipated happen. Having access to help and if necessary a place to go while repairs take place is very important.
With the risk of power outages, be sure to have flashlights positioned around the house and purchase a few units that sit in outlets as “nightlights” which double as emergency lighting if there is a power failure. Get some flashlights that will last a few hours with sealed batteries so that your parent(s) do not have to be concerned about batteries going dead. Avoid depending on candles for blackouts because of the risk of fire and make sure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are installed in the proper places.
Safety inside and outside
Make sure that safety is a priority around inside and outside your parent(s) home especially if it is a private home and not an apartment where someone is responsible for assuring walkways and stairs are safe. Make sure your parent(s) have a means (usually through another person) to clear snow and ice from walkways and steps and that there are secure handrails on steps, that salt or sand are available for slippery surfaces and that places that might become covered with snow or ice are well illuminated.
Having an automatic light that goes on at dusk is one way of assuring that the walkways will always be lit when darkness falls. This will help you navigate walkways and steps.
Preparing for a safe winter takes little time; not preparing can result in injuries that can take a long