Even if it doesn’t feel like it, when summer officially comes to an end the slow transitions from summer to fall are happening. Especially lately, when we wake up to cooler mornings that look as dark as when we went to bed.
Fall and winter can be a difficult time of the year for house-bound seniors, those who live with a physical disability, or those who are recovering from a prolonged illness or surgical procedure.
Winter is just around the corner which, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, will be a brutal one for Canadians this year. Though it doesn’t happen every year, even some snow in September isn’t unheard of for Albertans.
This period of transition between Canadian seasons, when the weather’s still warm enough to be considered summer weather, is the perfect time for caregivers to assess the home of the person they’re caring for, both inside and out. Besides getting ready for fall, it’s time to also determine what needs to be done to get ready for the colder winter season ahead.
Whether the person in your care is living in your home or their own, there will certainly be things you need to do outside and inside in order to get prepared for fall and winter.
Outdoor winter preparations
- Roof –Worn out shingles and eaves troughs that are full of leaves and other debris can lead to a bigger mess inside the home. Address these issues before the autumn rains start and you end up with a leaky roof on your hands.
- Walkways – Make sure that all walkways are well lit, and that cracks and uneven pavement are fixed to prevent tripping or falls. During winter, always make sure that walkways, driveways, and the sidewalk in front of the home are cleared of ice and snow. Invest in a snow thrower or blower, or have a service come in to do it for you if you can’t manage this task on your own. If a neighbour has a snow blower, ask if they would be willing to do your driveway as well.
- Waterproofing – Look for areas around the outside of the home where water tends to pool when it rains. These areas will get icy during winter so it’s a good idea to have them fixed before temperatures dip or it snows.
- Front Door – Keep some sand or salt nearby to spread on driveways and walkways after a snowfall.
- Car – Have the car inspected by a qualified mechanic to make sure it’s winter-ready.
- Yardwork – While some plants are hardy enough to last through the fall, it’s time to gradually start getting the garden ready for winter. Rake the leaves on a regular basis (wet leaves can pose a slipping hazard), cut back perennials and protect them with a layer of mulch, and protect shrubs and trees with wire or burlap screening.
Indoor winter preparations
- Alarms – Make sure that all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and house alarms are in good working condition. Test the units to make sure that the batteries are still working.
- Ducts – If you haven’t had the air ducts cleaned in the last 3-4 years now may be a good time to do so.
- Furnace – Check to see if the furnace is still in good working condition before winter sets in. The worst time to find out that you need to replace your furnace is when you need it the most. Also, make sure that the filter is clean and the area around the furnace is clear of obstructions. Failing to maintain a clean furnace puts everyone in the home at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Windows – Check for drafts around windows and seal them.
- Pipes – To prevent frozen pipes, remove and drain hoses used outdoors, and close inside valves that supply water to outdoor faucets. Check that all water supply lines inside the home are insulated.
Emergency preparedness for Caregivers
If you are a family caregiver for someone with major health issues and a major winter storm knocks out your power or closes access roads, you and the person you are caring for may be facing some major challenges.
Here are some helpful tips on emergency preparedness for caregivers:
- Keep your electronics and cell phones fully charged at all times
- Make sure batteries in a portable radio and flashlights are in good working order
- Keep plenty of bottled drinking water on hand
- Consider acquiring a propane heater or some alternate source of heating
- Consider a generator if the person you are caring for is oxygen-dependent
- Your vehicle should have good winter tires and always have a full tank of gas but only drive if it’s necessary
- Have important phone numbers ready including the health care team, fire department, etc.
See also, our Elizz article on Planning for an Emergency.
Ask for help
There’s no need to feel like you have to take on all of these tasks on your own all at once.
Ask your family and friends for help in preparing your home for winter, especially areas where you lack the required skill set (such as plumbing, auto repair, or gardening). Or, ask for a referral to someone you can hire on a contract basis.
Fall and winter can be a difficult time of the year for house-bound seniors, those who live with a physical disability, or those who are recovering from a prolonged illness or surgical procedure. It’s important to make their home is as comfortable – and as safe – for them as possible.
Powered by Saint Elizabeth Health Care, Elizz support services include care for caregivers as well as for the people in your care.
If you feel you need to speak to someone about emergency preparedness for the person in your care, you can call Elizz at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549) or contact Elizz online.
You might also like our article on Home Safety Tips Checklist for Seniors and Caregivers.