Winter weather is approaching quickly or already here, so you need to go through your elderly loved one’s home and make sure it’s ready for colder temperatures. It is a good idea to help them with this checklist so they do not winterize their home on their own. Some of these activities can be strenuous and others could require them to go up on a ladder, which raises their risk for a fall.
1. Test the heating system.
This may seem rudimentary, but many people don’t discover a problem until they switch the heat on for the first time. Waiting to find this problem can lead to a crisis. To avoid this situation, make sure you take a look at the condition of the heating filters and turn on the heating system to see if it is blowing warm air. Cleaning the furnace can also prevent accidental fires and it can lower energy costs. Check to see heating vents are closed in rooms that aren’t used to maximize the heat in areas of a home your loved one spends more time in.
2. Check heating ducts.
After making sure the heating system works, it’s a good idea to make sure the heating ducts do not have any damage, rust, and are not out of alignment. This will ensure that heat flows to where it’s intended.
3. Check all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
It’s a smart move to check these batteries during your winterizing steps. When the heat kicks on, a carbon monoxide detector will detect any previously unknown leak and if candles or a stove top left on starts an accidental fire, the smoke detector can be an essential way to keep your loved one safe.
4. Check fire extinguishers.
Make sure your loved one has a working fire extinguisher in the home. Check to see if it’s full and talk to them about how to use it. If they are unable to use it, discuss an alternative plan in case of an emergency.
5. Install a programmable thermostat.
These devices do not cost much at the hardware store and can save a bundle in heating costs. Furthermore, automating the heat helps those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Since many automatic thermostats come with a lock feature, it can keep a person from fiddling with the temperature, including turning the heat way down which could put your loved one’s health at risk.
6. Plan ahead for de-icing and snow removal.
An icy sidewalk or driveway can pose a major fall risk to your loved one. If you create a plan in advance of cold and snowy weather, it can limit these risks. This could be buying melting salt ahead of time, contacting snow removal specialists so they can come help when needed, and includes buying shoes with non-slip soles for your loved one to use when they need to walk outside and could encounter ice.
7. Check outdoor faucets.
By making sure these faucets are off, it prevents the formation of any icy surfaces due to a leak. These icy patches can increase the risk for a dangerous fall. This is also a chance to make sure the gutters are cleaned out and remove any clogs.
8. Check insulation.
By putting enough insulation in the attic or crawl space, it can prevent hot air from escaping the home. Furthermore, make sure any exposed pipes have insulation around them to keep them from freezing. It is also a good idea to install weather strips around doors and windows and close up any holes or cracks with caulk. You may also want to install storm windows or put weather-proofing around the windows.
9. Replace summer curtains with heavier winter versions.
This helps keep a home insulated, keeping heat from escaping through the windows.
10. Check the fireplace and any ceiling fans.
For the fireplace, make sure there is not any buildup in a chimney flue, and remove any ashes and other debris which can cause a fire hazard or flare-ups. Also, ask whether an elderly loved one is safely capable of managing a fire. If not, you may want to block it off for the winter. For ceiling fans, reverse the direction of the blades so the ceiling fan pushes the warm air down.
11. Have other options to stay warm.
This includes placing blankets around the house and helping your loved one get their winter clothing out of storage. It’s also helpful to place outdoor gear near the door – this way your loved one can see it before heading out and may be more likely to put it on. If you feel it is safe for your loved one, you can also make sure they have portable heaters in rooms where they spend more of their time. However, be aware that being careless around one of these heaters can cause burns or start a fire.