Cold weather brings special challenges for people with disabilities. The cold can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Icy sidewalks can result in falls. Here are some tips to help your disabled loved one keep active in cold weather and get safely through the winter without being confined to their home.
Keep Your Loved One Layered Up
Some disabling conditions affect sensory capabilities and the ability to maintain body heat. So when your loved one is out in low temperatures, make sure they wear layers of clothing. Air acts as insulation when it gets trapped between layers. If a wheelchair is involved, a small blanket should be tucked around the seater’s lower body.
- Avoid cotton clothing; it does not dry once wet.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen! The sun’s reflection off snow can cause severe sunburns.
- Keep active in cold weather by using ice grippers – Several devices are available that strap on to boots and enable the wearer to walk safely on icy surfaces.
Make Sure the Dog Stays Warm
If your disabled loved one has a companion or working assistance dog, remember that dogs too need to keep active in cold weather. Our canine friends can also suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. Buy a dog coat that can go under the harness and consider getting protective booties for the canine’s paws.
Keep Active in Cold Weather: Put Snow Tires on the Wheelchair
Pneumatic tires provide better traction on slippery sidewalks. An alternative is to use standard dirt bike tires. Use clay cat litter or table salt to clear ramps. Avoid rock salt because it can poison animals and also may be slippery.
Freezing rain will stick to surfaces on wheelchairs, walkers, forearm cuffs, and canes. Metal handles can feel very cold in wintry weather! Keep active in cold weather by placing a soft-sided piece of Velcro on walker handles to help with gripping. You can also buy fleece covers for handles to prevent direct contact with cold metal.
Stock Up on Food
If your disabled loved one is reliant on a home meal delivery service, make sure there is a good stock of nonperishable food in their home in case meal deliveries are suspended during a blizzard or other emergency.
Have Emergency Plans in Place
Have a plan with your loved one’s doctor so that prescriptions can get refilled during an emergency. If your loved one receives dialysis or some other medical treatment, find out what the provider’s emergency plan is and where their backup site is located. If medical equipment is used that requires electrical power, contact your supplier for information about a backup power source such as a battery or portable generator. If your loved one relies on oxygen, talk to the vendor about emergency replacements.
Special Needs Registry
The Special Needs Registry is a service for people with disabilities. It allows medical agencies to provide registrants with information on emergency preparedness. Check with your local law enforcement office to see if a special needs registry exists in your area.
If your loved one receives home-based care (e.g., home health visitor, visiting nurse service, homecare aide), include these caregivers in developing your emergency plan. If you don’t currently use in-home care and you live in the Columbia, SC area, Caring Healthcare can help your disabled loved one make it safely through to spring. Give us a call to find out how we can help your loved one keep active in cold weather.