Early autumn is the perfect time for caregivers to assess the home of the person they’re caring for, both inside and out, to make the home ready for the colder months ahead.
Whether the person in your care is living in your home or their own, there are things you need to do outside and inside in order to get prepared for the upcoming winter.
Outdoor Home Winterization
- Roof – Worn out shingles and eavestroughs that are full of leaves and other debris can lead to a bigger mess inside the home. Address these issues before the autumn rain starts to avoid a leaky roof.
- 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 ask a family member, friend, neighbour, or a snow removal service to do this for you if you can’t manage this task on your own.
- 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 Home Winterization
- 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. If the person in your care has respiratory problems like asthma, it’s good to clean them seasonally.
- 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. 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 any leaks.
- 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 Tips
If you are a family caregiver for someone with health issues and a major winter storm knocks out your power or closes access roads, you and the person you are caring for may face some difficult challenges.
These tips can help you be prepared for an emergency, should one arise:
- 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 an alternate source of heating.
- Consider a generator if the person you are caring for uses medical equipment that rely on electricity.
- 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 Planning for an Emergency for more safety tips to consider.
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 to be referred to someone you can hire to do the work.
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.
Providing social stimulation is just as important as creating a comfortable home for the person in your care, but we understand that not all caregivers can do this 24/7. An Elizz Home Support Worker can fill in the gaps when you’re needed elsewhere and will make sure that the person in your care is engaged and involved in activities that enhance their well-being.