Winter brings a fresh set of challenges for caregivers and their charges. Learning how to help an aging parent or other loved ones during this season is critical to keeping them happier and healthier. For example, if you’re taking your loved one to an appointment or out of the home, be sure the walkways are clear of snow and ice, and ensure he or she wears proper footwear with a rugged sole to help minimize the chances of a slip and fall injury. Be better prepared with these five wintertime safety tips.
Guard Against Hypothermia
Hypothermia  is a very real danger for seniors and people struggling with certain health conditions. The human body goes through changes as it gets older or when it’s sick, making it more difficult to stay warm even in temperatures that younger people consider mild or moderate. For example, it could be 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but if the home isn’t well insulated or efficiently heated the conditions could cause a dangerous decline in body temperature.
When the body falls below 94 degrees F, hypothermia becomes a problem. Symptoms include confusion, weakened pulse, slurred speech, and clumsiness. As a caregiver looking after elderly parents or friends, you can take steps to help prevent hypothermia, starting with setting the home thermostat to 65 degrees F or warmer. Make sure the home is insulated and any gaps around windows are sealed using caulk or weather stripping. If you’re taking the care recipient out, have him or her dress warmly, in layers, and with a hat.
Reduce Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Risk
As  outside temperatures drop, many people turn on gas heaters or fireplaces to ward off the chill. But these heat sources can be dangerous. Fireplaces, gas stoves, and wood stoves can leak deadly carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that kills more than 400 and poisons more than 50,000 people annually, according to the National Safety Council.
Help aging parents by checking all heating sources to determine if they need servicing or cleaning. Don’t forget to install carbon monoxide alarms and smoke detectors, and check/replace the batteries. It could save your loved one’s life.
Fight the Seasonal Blues
Winter  can be a difficult season for mental health. Plummeting temperatures and adverse weather makes it harder to get out of the house, sending many people into the winter blues. For some it goes beyond the blues to more serious depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which affects approximately 10 million Americans, according to Psychology Today. Another 10 percent to 20 percent of the population experiences mild SAD.
Checking on care recipients frequently and arranging for other friends and family members to call them can make a difference. It’s also important to spend time with your loved one doing fun activities like baking, watching movies, telling stories based on your memories, and even taking a brisk walk on dry, sunny, warm winter days.
Arrange for Snow Removal
Snow  removal accounts for more than 11,000 injuries every year in the United States, according to data published in The Spokesman-Review. For those aging in place, the temptation to go outside and clear sidewalks is dangerous. Moving masses of snow can cause the shoveler to sweat, putting the person at risk for hypothermia. Other dangers include slip and fall injuries, back injuries, and strain on the cardiovascular system.
If you can’t do the shoveling, consider arranging for help. Talk to your loved one’s neighbors to see if there’s someone in the neighborhood providing shoveling and snow removal services. Check with the Better Business Bureau to find reputable companies that can help out or call the local city/town administration office for recommendations.
Winter  weather can wreak havoc on the best laid plans. Storms can knock out power. Be sure your loved one is ready with a battery-operated ratio, easy access to flashlights and battery-powered lanterns, and plenty of warm blankets in case the power goes out. Additionally, make a contingency plan in case weather prevents you from being able to physically visit your loved one. For example, you might arrange for a neighbor to stop in to make sure the care recipient has everything he or she needs.