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Winter and your assisted living community

Posted by Earl Laing | Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tips for winterizing your assisted living community There's no way around it- the winter is a hard month for everyone. From clearing snow to going out of your way to avoid a patch of dangerous ice, everything takes a little longer. Things really slow down for seniors whose bodies aren't as agile as they once were. This season can be a dangerous time for the elderly, especially when snow and ice start to accumulate on the ground. Because even though everyone has slowed down, accidents can still happen fast.

As long as you're prepared, the winter months don't have to be strenuous. Just follow these tips for a safe and healthy winter:

Be proactive on indoor and outdoor repairs

Outdoor repairs: Before it gets too cold outside, a little maintenance management will go a long way. Check the perimeter of your building for hazards that might cause destruction to its infrastructure should there be a major storm, suggested the USAA. First, be sure to clear the gutters of debris to keep water buildup from turning into ice that could potentially form leak-inducing ice dams inside your residents' rooms. On the same note, check the building for any roof and siding damage or cracks, as these could let water and ice into your building and create expensive issues. Next, trim back tree branches that could fall on your building or across any roads that could block entryways.

Don't forget to invest in a roof rake to prevent snow buildup once it starts to accumulate to prevent heavy snow from caving in. Check your stock of rock salt to keep the sidewalks slip-free for seniors and guests. 

Indoor repairs: The USAA also recommended wrapping exposed pipes with insulation sleeves to keep them from freezing and bursting. If your assisted living facility has a fireplace, gas heater or lanterns, be especially sure to double check your carbon monoxide detector to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Next, it's important to insulate your attic floor as it will help keep heat in your building, and heating bills down. Plus, it will help your attic cool allowing you to knock the snow off before it melts and turns into an ice dam.

Keep everyone healthy

Flu vaccines and proper cleaning methods are extremely important for keeping your community healthy during the long winter months. This also includes mental health so keep in mind it's your duty to help your residents fight seasonal depression. Care.com pointed out that seniors tend to have less contact with others once it starts to get colder out and weather makes it tricky to travel making seniors feel lonely and even depressed. The source recommended making sure staff helps facilitate calls and visits with family members. Even a short call or video chat session can make your residents feel less isolated. 

Ensure residents are warm enough

The proper attic insulation mentioned earlier is the first step in preparing your building for the cold. Also consider adding area rugs to your building, as this will help insulate and reduce heat loss. Of course, always encourage your residents to wear warm clothing in the winter and keep an ample stock of blankets around your community. Consider installing smart thermostats to control the heat in your facility, which not only helps adjust temperatures for your residents, but also your heating bill.

Power outage and disaster preparedness plan

Should there be a storm that causes your facility to lose power, you'll have to be ready for a procedure that could potentially save lives. A power outage could mean that you lose basic services, like electricity and communications, so you'll need to a have back up plan. The American Red Cross put together a disaster plan explaining that being prepared is a simple matter of having the right supplies on hand and having a plan that everyone is ready to put into action. While there are many things senior livings operations managers can do, it's best to start with checking your emergency supplies. Make sure you have stock of medicine, water and food, as well as a working generator on premise to power your building in case the power goes out.