Winter in New York City brings special challenges in home care for seniors. Temperatures plunge, darkness sets in early, snow or ice falls, and environments may become unsafe. Here are some simple tips that senior citizens, their family members and caregivers can use to help everyone stay safe.
1. Plan ahead for cures to the winter blues. It is easy to become depressed or isolated in winter. It may be dark by 5 p.m., and the weather and cold makes not going out easy. However, if a senior plans and commits to events, he has reason and motivation to go out and socialize. Start by the end of late October, if not earlier, and find fun area events to do. Considerations include planning for transportation and possible supervision.
2. Replace the rubber bottoms on canes and walkers, especially if they are frayed. Rubber tips in good shape ensure better traction in general, including in snowy and slippery conditions. There are also cane attachments that help with traction.
3. Use caution if shoveling snow. A senior should only shovel if a doctor has approved it, and it should be avoided altogether if the senior’s balance is bad or if he has osteoporosis. It is also wise to plan ahead for snow removal. Before winter begins, make arrangements for how snow might be removed—a neighborhood child, for example, or a family member.
4. Have furnaces, radiators and the like inspected before winter sets in. If they malfunction, they may become fire hazards. Malfunctioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors may also be deadly. Check their batteries and working condition.
5. Dress properly for venturing out. Use layers, and keep skin covered. Be aware of warning signs of hypothermia; stay in heated areas, and if shivering happens, find a warmer place.
6. If care is provided by family members, create emergency plans in case weather makes the senior’s home inaccessible. Coordinate with a caregiver agency to provide backup home care for seniors.
7. Ensure a senior always has his cellphone or emergency alert system.