Article by Melissa Malamut, Boston Magazine
“Minimize safety risks for loved ones by following these steps.
Winter can bring many healthcare challenges for older people, especially those with mobility issues or those who are homebound. Ellen McCabe, director of professional education for HopeHealth, a non-profit healthcare organization providing medical care, care management, and support services in eastern Massachusetts, knows the dangers associated with winter weather all too well. “There are emotional risks, such as isolation from friends and community, and also physical risks, such as falls,” McCabe says. “Risks can be minimized if some basic guidelines are followed, making winter an enjoyable time of year for us all.”
Here are 10 tips for keeping aging loved ones safe and healthy during the winter months.
1. Stock emergency resources in their homes. “Emergency kits must be easily accessible and should include water, flashlight, batteries, radio, and blankets,” McCabe says. “Seniors should have at least a seven-day supply of prescription medications and a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water on hand.”
2. Watch the temperature. “For elders, there are significant risks of being too cold, which include dehydration,” she says. “People with cardiac issues tend to get colder faster. Make sure the home is properly insulated and windows are caulked to prevent drafts. Thermostats should be set to 68 degrees to prevent hypothermia and prevent pipes from freezing.”
3. Identify and eliminate fall risks (see more on this below). “This is a huge issue for seniors and most do not know they are at risk for falls, especially during the winter. Often they will take off their wet boots when they get home and walk around the house in stockings, which often leads to slipping,” McCabe says. “Create slip-proof paths and make sure they wear shoes or slippers that grip. Keep driveways and walkways clear of snow. Many schools offer programs where student volunteers can help shovel and salt. The Snow Crew is one local organization that provides such volunteers.””