How to Prepare a Senior's Home for Winter

maintenance director

In these tumultuous times, it might be easy to forget winter is on the way. The beauty of September days may give way to colder weather quicker than you think. If you are the caregiver for an aging loved one who lives alone, it’s important to help them prepare their house for the snowy season ahead.

From furnace inspection to a smoke alarm test, we created this winter safety checklist to help you get started.

Winter Home Safety Checklist

  1. Have the furnace inspected.

Having the heating system of your senior loved one’s home inspected is essential. Not only does it help identify problems that might make the furnace stop functioning, it can also detect cracks or leaks that can allow carbon monoxide to enter the home.

Almost every winter, there’s a story or two about a family losing their lives to carbon monoxide poisoning. According to the Poison Control Center, carbon monoxide exposure accounts for 15,000 emergency room visits a year and an average of 439 deaths. Unfortunately, older adults make up a large portion of the fatalities.

  1. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Research shows working, properly installed smoke detectors can save lives. For seniors with mobility challenges, being alerted to problems early gives them more time to safely escape. If you aren’t sure how to install or inspect smoke alarms, read this smoke detector safety checklist from the National Fire Protection Association.

Along these same lines is to make sure your family member has a carbon monoxide detector. Experts say every level of the home should have one. “Protect Yourself and Your Family with a CO Detector” has tips for choosing the right one.

  1. Tend to outdoor water faucets.

Talk with an experienced plumber and they’ll tell you how much trouble a frozen or burst pipe can cause. It’s the last thing you need on a cold winter’s day. Protect the home’s exterior faucets by disconnecting the hoses and draining the faucets. Make sure to turn off the line before the first freeze.

Many people rely on irrigation systems to keep their yards thriving during the summer. Don’t forget to have the lines blown out before winter weather moves in.

  1. Have the gutters cleaned.

When leaves and other debris build up in the gutters and freeze, they can cause ice jams. This blocks the flow of water. When water can’t drain out through the gutters, it might end up leaking into the home or basement. That can lead to a big, expensive mess.

If you aren’t able to inspect and clean the gutters, hire someone who can.

  1. Plan for ice and snow removal.

Falls remain the leading cause of fatal injuries among seniors. Winter can be especially hazardous. Before the first snowfall, create a plan for having the driveway, sidewalks, and entryways cleared and salted.

Many local agencies on aging and senior centers maintain a list of reliable snow removal services who work with older adults. Some even offer a senior discount. Call those closest to your family member if you need a referral.

  1. Stock the pantry and medicine cabinet.

Now is the time to stock up on non-perishable food items, staples, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. Bottled water, peanut butter, crackers, canned fruits and meats, flashlight batteries, toilet paper, and paper towels are just a few. If the senior has a pet, buy extra supplies for them, too.

While insurance companies may limit medication refills, do the best you can to get ahead. They should have enough medicine on hand for a few days in case a power outage or snowstorm keeps them housebound.

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