Winter weather is fast approaching New York City, and preparing for the cold season now is the best way to ensure a comfortable and safe time during the winter months, especially for older adults and those living alone.
Winter Weather and the Elderly
As our bodies age, we lose body heat faster, it takes longer to generate lost heat and our immune systems are generally more vulnerable to illness. Because of these heightened risk factors, older adults benefit from thoroughly preparing for cold weather early, and stretching these household chores out over several days to avoid overexertion.
Check Utilities Early
New Yorkers enjoy a strong set of legal protections that ensure landlords must provide adequate heat and hot water, however, enforcement of these rules and/or repairs to a building’s heat and hot water systems can take time. Because of the lag time between a utility complaint being made and the problem being resolved, it is important to test your apartment’s heat and hot water systems well before temperatures become dangerously low. Visit the following blog for SelectCare’s guide to heat and hot water utilities in NYC.
Temperature Control in an Apartment
When considering how to manage the temperature in an apartment, it is critical that residents have an accurate thermometer in their home. While some apartments now use a digital thermostat to regulate heat, every
Many New Yorkers develop a habit of running their apartment’s heating system overnight and turning it off during daylight hours to save on energy costs. Older adults are advised to keep their thermostats set to 68 degrees throughout the day, as doing so eliminates the risk of forgetting to turn on heaters as the temperature begins to drop.
Rather than constantly tweaking temperature controls, older adults can prevent the loss of heat and save on heating bills by installing door sweeps along thresholds and blocking drafty windows with draft stoppers or by covering drafty windows with insulating film covers.
Note that installing certain film covers safely might require a helping hand, so planning ahead and asking for help when needed is critical.
Take a Moment for Fire Safety
Turning on a heating system after months of disuse can increase the chance of a home fire. Before turning on your apartment’s heat system, be sure nothing flammable is set on top of, against or within close proximity to the source of heat.
Additionally, your winter preparations mark a great chance to check the batteries on the carbon dioxide and smoke detectors located throughout your home.
Prepare for Snow
If you live in a standalone home, you are likely responsible for clearing a path on the sidewalk outside your home following a snow or ice storm. If this is the case, be sure to purchase de-icing salt or snow melt before the first snowfall, and consider having this item delivered to your home to avoid back strain or fall hazards.
Cold Weather Clothing
New York City experiences extremely hot summers and extremely cold winters, meaning many residents keep cold weather gear tucked away until it’s absolutely needed, and can find themselves underdressed following a sudden cold snap. Avoid being caught unprepared by swapping summer and winter clothing before temperatures drop sharply and make a list of clothing items to purchase now, like replacement socks and boots, before streets become hazardously icy. If you use a cane or other assistive device to walk, be sure it is in good condition and ready for the season.
Space Heaters and Other Solutions
It is quite common for apartment-dwellers to turn to electric space heaters and blankets when temperatures begin to dip. While these devices can quickly heat up a room, most elder care experts strongly discourage their use because they pose severe fire hazards.
Rather than using space heaters or electric blankets, it is far safer to simply wear a few extra layers while at home. By adding a pair of thermal leggings (long johns), a thermal undershirt and a pair of thicker cotton socks, seniors can preserve their body heat and feel much more comfortable without increasing the risk of fire or raising their energy bills.
If you do choose to use a space heater, there are some steps you must take to lower the chance of fire:
- Only use space heaters in good working order with no damage to the cable.
- Never run power cables under rugs as they might become damaged over time and cast sparks.
- Make sure space heaters are at least three feet away from walls, furniture or any other potentially flammable object.
- Periodically check the space heater, power cable and the wall plug to make sure they are not hot to the touch. Discontinue use if these parts are warm to the touch.
- NEVER leave a space heater or electric blanket running while sleeping.
- Make sure your smoke detector and Carbon Dioxide detectors are in good working order.
While cold weather is the primary concern in most New York City apartments, some older adults might experience discomfort due to a lack of moisture in the air – this is caused by colder air generally carrying less water vapor than during warmer months.
If you or a loved one experience dryer, itchier skin than normal, nosebleeds, a persistent cough, chapped lips or feel like your throat and nose are unusually dry, purchasing a humidifier and increasing your daily water intake can significantly help alleviate these problems.
SelectCare hopes you found this guide useful. Many families first consider home health care for their loved ones during the winter months, when keeping up with day-to-day errands becomes more challenging and the run up to the holiday season makes everyone feel like they’re stretched just a little too thin.