Be Prepared for Cold Weather
Even though Peoria’s weather last January was warmer than normal and snowfall was below average, there is no guarantee this year’s weather will be a rerun. A return to normal January averages—high of 33, low of 17, and 24 inches of snow—is certainly possible and it would be wise for everyone, especially older adults, to be ready for their return.
Make Sure Your Home Is Ready to Keep You Warm
Be sure your heating system is ready to perform. Have a heating professional inspect the system—including the chimney—to be sure it is clean, operating properly and ventilating correctly.
Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to be sure they are operating properly. Replace batteries if you haven’t done so in the last six months. If you do not have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors there is no better time than now to install them; they save lives.
Weather stripping, insulation and storm windows cut down on drafts and save on heating costs. Weather stripping can be installed during cold weather. If it is too far into the season to start a major project like insulation, make a New Year’s resolution to put this on your list for 2018.
If you use a space heater to warm your room, be sure to follow the directions that came with it; some space heaters can be fire hazards. See tinyurl.com/skywin1 for a short list of space heater safety tips.
Prepare Your Car for the Cold
Keep the gas tank at least half-full at all times. Cars run out of gas more quickly in cold weather and, in short-trip city driving, gas mileage can drop as much as 22% in cold weather, even more in hybrids. Near-empty gas tanks also increase the chances of fuel line freeze-up.
Be sure the tires support safe winter driving: have tread depth checked and, if necessary, replace the tires with all-weather tires.
Have the radiator serviced and antifreeze levels checked.
Keep a winter emergency kit in the trunk with blankets, booster cables, a tire pump, a small shovel, a bag of sand or kitty litter (for traction), and a flashlight. See the CDC’s website at tinyurl.com/skywin2 for a complete list.
Be Winter-Smart When Outdoors
Wear clothing that is appropriate. The best approach is layers: a wind-resistant waterproof outer layer with inner layers of light, warm clothing. Mittens are better than gloves for keeping hands warm. Footwear should be waterproof and a head cover is a must. Exposing your uncovered head to the cold is like wearing shorts and exposing your legs. The less skin you expose to the weather, the better.
Sprinkle ice melt on walkways.
Work slowly when shoveling snow or doing other outdoor jobs. Do not over-exert.
Ask for Help If You Need It
The shorter days and the cold, snowy weather that often accompanies them can make seniors feel trapped in their homes and isolated. Family and friends can make life easier with a social drop-in or transportation for trips outside the home when conditions are cold, snowy or icy. In addition, Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging offers information on assistance in locating transportation within their service area. Call them at (309) 674-2071 between 8:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Monday thru Friday. Transportation, escorting on local trips, running errands, shopping, etc. are also services offered by many home care agencies to help older adults age safely in their homes, especially during the winter months.
Get Your Flu Shot
Regardless of whether January’s weather turns out to be normal or not, one thing every senior should do every winter is get a flu shot, ideally with the high-dose vaccine. Studies have found almost 25 percent fewer cases of proven influenza in adults age 65 and older who took the high-dose vaccine as compared with those who took the standard-dose vaccine. Make an appointment with your physician or google “get a flu shot near me” to find a pharmacy or local government office that offers vaccinations.
Skylines Home Care provides in-home care and nursing services for older adults. For more information and a no-charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689-5343 or send email to BCowley@acskylines.org. Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.