Help seniors winterize their homes

Right at Home Perrysburg -  John BaldwinBy John Baldwin, FLTN Columnist-

Whether your aging loved one lives in an area with four distinct seasons of the year or in milder temperatures year-round, autumn is the ideal time to winterize the home to protect it against the upcoming snow, rain and the dipping thermometer. Preparing for the chilly months may include anything from a professional furnace check to simply adding weather-stripping around the front door. Although some people, including older adults on limited incomes, think they can’t afford to winterize, even relatively small steps toward guarding against the elements prove a cost savings in heating bills and exterior wear and tear to the home.

As fall is winding down, one of our concerns in adult home care is making sure the seniors we assist are safe, warm and at ease in their home environments during the winter months. Many elderly are physically unable to climb on roofs and such to winterize their home or are unaware of problems like worn caulking and leaky gutters. This is where the rest of us can step up with advice or a helping hand.

Colder climates do involve more pre-winter maintenance, but it is manageable when you break down winterizing into smaller tasks. Listed are somebasic steps to help winterize a home:

  • Check the heating system. Turn up the thermostat and test to see if warm air is blowing within a few minutes. Clear any obstructions from heat vents so the air can freely flow. Consider a pre-winter furnace checkup from a certified heating technician. Stock up on furnace filters to change out every month. If the furnace uses oil or propane, be sure the fuel tank is full before the first cold snap.
  • Properly seal doors, windows and pipes. Look for cracks and leaks where moisture and air can infiltrate. Add weather-stripping or caulking where needed. Ensure water piping in uninsulated spaces (attic, outside walls, etc.) is covered first with electrical heating tape and then with foam insulation. Be sure to disconnect all garden hoses and correctly shut down the sprinkler system.
  • Inspect the fireplace and chimney. Make sure the flue opens and closes fully. Hire a professional chimney sweep if it’s been years since the chimney has been completely cleaned. Check to make sure no birds or animals have built nests in the chimney, and ensure the flashing is secure and leak-proof. Any open mortar joints need to be repaired immediately to prevent a fire behind the fireplace walls.
  • Clean out leaves and debris from gutters. Also make sure the roof has no loose or missing shingles.

Another important part of safeguarding a home for winter is to repair any loose parts of driveways and sidewalks where rain, snow and ice can accumulate or pose unsure footing. One-third of older adults in America fall every year, and many of these tumbles are outdoors, causing severe injury and even death.

Winterizing isn’t just smart for saving money on heating costs and preventing damage caused by wear and tear. Home maintenance and safety repairs — any time of year — is actually smart for saving lives.

To help assess health risk areas inside the home and external premises, Right at Home has developed a Fall Prevention Guide, and it’s available free at http://www.rightathome.net/fall-prevention.

The Perrysburg office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, Inc., serving the communities of Wood, Lucas and Sandusky counties. For more information, contact Right at Home of Perrysburg, Ohio at http://www.rahnwohio.com, 567-336-6062 or by email at jbaldwin@rahnwohio.com.