By Elizabeth Guttenberg, LMSW, Senior Care Advisor
Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, Snowzilla. While melodramatic, these terms characterize the anxiety many of us feel when gearing up for yet another arduous winter. And for those of you caring for elderly loved ones, the connotation is even more troubling. Add snow, ice, and the threat of a power outage into the mix, and winter has made your already demanding caregiving tasks even more daunting. Luckily, as with many of life’s challenges, planning ahead can help manage, and even avoid, a crisis situation as we head into less-than-ideal wintery conditions. Here are some tips and considerations to help you prepare for the upcoming months.
- Fall Prevention: Getting around in the winter is tough. I consider myself fairly agile and even I’ve slipped and fallen on black ice a time or two. Seniors, with slower reflexes and coordination, are at high risk for falls that can be detrimental to their health and wellbeing. To help prevent falls, ask your parents if they have appropriate walking equipment: shoes with treads and good traction, and walkers or canes with rubber bases. Hire someone to salt their walkway and driveway when precipitation arrives and temperatures dip below freezing, and someone to plow after a snowfall. If your loved one cannot afford these services, ask a friendly neighbor if he or she would be willing to help with these tasks. Or check with the local senior center about free or low-cost town services.
- Transportation Safety: If your mom is still driving, ensure that her car is ready for the winter roads. Fix known problems before winter sets in (wheels, wipers, brakes, the defroster and the heater should all be in prime condition). Pack supplies such as granola bars, water, blankets and a flashlight in the trunk or back seat in case of an emergency. Sign your dad up for a 24/7 roadside assistance policy, and remind him to charge up and carry his cell phone, in case he needs to call for help. If you are concerned about your loved one’s driving abilities, remember that your Care.com Care Advisor can help facilitate the often difficult conversations required to address this topic and find alternative transportation options.
- Home Safety: When I was little, I loved power outages. My family would cuddle up in blankets and tell stories by candlelight. But for seniors, power outages can mean increased fall risk and threat of hypothermia. To keep them safe, place blankets, food, water, a back-up cell phone battery and flashlights in accessible areas throughout your loved one’s home. Remove rugs and objects that might lead to slips, stumbles or falls in the dark. Check in with your loved one regularly by phone during inclement weather, and come up with a game plan should they not answer your calls (for example, ask a trusted neighbor to take a spare key and check on them or deliver supplies if needed).
- Caregiver Support: If your loved one receives in- home care, consider how you will respond if the regular caregiver is unavailable due to treacherous weather conditions. Meet with your homecare agency or private caregiver in advance to discuss an emergency plan. Your Care Advisor can provide guidance around contingency care planning for the months ahead.
Still worried about your loved one during the upcoming winter months? Care.com’s Senior Care Advisers are experienced,
master’s-level social workers who can help you address your senior care challenges.
Call us today at (855) 781-1303 ext 3.