7 Winter Safety Tips and A Home Safety Checklist for Seniors | Safety.com

7 Winter Home Safety Tips for Seniors

While the winter can be a beautiful time of the year with snow and scenic sights, it can also be a dangerous time for seniors. Here are 7 ways you can ensure a senior is safe and warm at home.

Help Seniors to Stay Safe & Warm During the Winter…

Help Seniors to Stay Safe & Warm During the Winter Months

For some seniors staying at home, their week-to-week agendas may involve doctor’s visits, maintaining the home, and other errands around town.  Seniors living at home may need additional attention during the winter months to ensure there are no safety hazards and that they’re prepared for unforeseen events.

1. Stay Warm and Prevent Hypothermia

Some seniors may want to turn down the heat in their homes to reduce their energy bill, but this can be hazardous to their health. Their bodies are not as capable of regulating heat as younger peoples’ bodies; therefore, it’s important to help them realize the importance of staying warm during the winter.

What this looks like is ensuring that they are dressing warmly while around the house as well as outdoors. Wearing sweaters, hoodies, thermals, thicker socks, and a hat if necessary can help. If they’re going to be working outdoors, they need to make sure they’re not staying out for too long. The National Institutes of Health  (NIH) defines hypothermia as “having a core body temperature below 95 degrees.”

Generations Senior Living recommends keeping their home at a minimum of 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. If a senior has a fireplace or space heater and would like to use those as well, make sure they’re safe to use, and the senior understands proper operation. If monetary heating assistance is needed, they may be able to qualify for government assistance have a relative or friend to help.

Elderly-Woman-Sitting-min

2. Avoid Home Fires

The American Red Cross reports that home fires are most prevalent during December and January. It may be easier for seniors to forget that they’ve left their stove on or a space heater running. Try to remind and check-in with them when possible. If you walk into their home, do you hear any beeping? If so, smoke alarms may need new batteries or complete replacement.

There are several smart ways seniors can help reduce the risk of kitchen fires. Seniors should learn how to use the timer on their stoves or set a reminder on their phone. If a senior uses a fireplace for additional heat, be sure to keep up with maintenance and have it checked by a professional if necessary.

Kitchen

3. Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

As a colorless, odorless gas, we can’t detect carbon monoxide on our own; that’s why it’s essential to ensure seniors have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. You can purchase these as standalone devices or as part of a full home security system. For placement, it’s recommended to install a carbon monoxide detector in the garage and in each bedroom.

Remembering to turn off the car when parking in the garage, cutting off the stove, and space heaters at the appropriate times are important for keeping seniors and their home safe.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

4. Reduce the Chance for Falls and Injuries

With winter comes cold weather and slippery surfaces that can pose a challenge for seniors with mobility or health issues like arthritis. You can reduce the chance of a fall or injury by making sure their home is optimized for safety. This means checking rugs for tripping hazards, making sure that they have non-slip shoes, and even updating bathrooms and living areas to make getting around easier and safer. 80% of falls occur in the bathroom — this can be one place to start checking for any hazards and overall accessibility.

Rug

5. Prepare for Inclement Weather & Power Outages

We can predict the weather, but we can’t be certain of weather events. That’s why preparation is key. Does the elderly individual have any flashlights, lanterns, water, food, a radio, portable battery chargers, and other items in the event of a power outage? Be sure to stock up on those things for them so that they can be more prepared. We recommend checking in on seniors to make sure they’re okay when severe weather is in the forecast.

House in the snow

6. Check Their Vehicles

For active seniors who are still driving, make it a routine to keep their vehicles checked and in proper maintenance. How are the tires? Do they need new windshield wipers? How are the oil and antifreeze levels? Another device that will come in handy is a cell phone car charger. Additionally, having a medical alert system with built-in GPS monitoring and fall detection would be beneficial. There are a number of medical alert systems available through providers.

Car parked in driveway

7. Keep the Wintertime Blues at Bay

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the elderly are at a greater risk for developing depression.” Sometimes seniors living at home alone don’t have relatives or friends who regularly visit, which can lead to loneliness creeping in and spurring on depression. As we’re experiencing a pandemic, seniors are all the more susceptible to loneliness and depression from not being able to physically visit with loved ones or be in close contact.

To help a senior avoid depression, especially during this time, check in with him or her on a regular basis, even if it’s by phone or video call. If possible, provide them with items they need and lend a helping hand. It really is amazing how a little love and attention can strengthen and warm the heart – even on the coldest winter days and nights.

Elderly man smiling
Senior Home Safety Checklist

Senior Home Safety Checklist

Use this checklist to help you identify any home hazards or safety-related needs for a senior.

Bedroom

❑  Are there any objects on the floor that could cause trips or falls?

❑  If there is a rug in the room, does it have a non-slip backing?

❑  Are bedroom shoes slip-resistant?

❑  Are bed rails or handrails needed for support?

❑  Is a step stool needed for support?

❑  If a medical alert system or button is present, can he or she easily access it for help?

❑  If a walking cane, walker, or wheelchair is present, is it easily accessible?

❑  Does he or she have enough bedding or blankets for warmth?

❑  Does he or she have enough clothing or cold-weather apparel?

 

Bathroom 

❑  Are medications properly stored and arranged?

❑  Are slip-resistant mats needed for the shower or tub?

❑  If any floor mats are present, are they slip-resistant?

❑  Does he or she need handrails for support?

❑  Is the toilet seat an appropriate height?

❑  Does he or she need a step stool or bathing chair?

❑  Are there any leaks that need to be addressed?

❑  If a medical alert system or button is present, can he or she easily access it for help?

 

Kitchen

❑  Is a step stool needed?

❑  Are any mats or rugs slip-resistant?

❑  Is there proper and sufficient lighting?

❑  Are kitchen utensils and cookware in easy places that can be reached?

❑  Is the food stored in easy places that can be reached?

❑  Are kitchen appliances (stove, refrigerator, microwave, etc.) in good and working order?

 

Living Room

❑  Are any mats or rugs slip-resistant?

❑  Is there proper and sufficient lighting?

❑  Are chairs safe to sit in? Are they high enough?

❑  Are there any objects or fall hazards in the living room?

❑  Are keys kept in a proper place?

❑  If a stairway is in the home, is it clear?

❑  If a medical alert system or button is present, can he or she easily access it for help?  

 

Outdoors

❑  Are door locks working properly? Are any additional locks needed?

❑  Is a ramp needed for mobility or handrails for steps?

❑  Are gardening or outdoor tools easily accessible?

❑  Is there proper and sufficient outdoor lighting?


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Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.