A lot of the ordinary precautions everyone uses to prepare against extreme weather conditions are the same ones the elderly need to have in place to protect themselves. Some of these precautions are more important for seniors, given the frail nature of the elderly and their proneness to health complications. As a caregiver or family member, covering a few of the common yet often overlooked safety bases for your aging loved one could mean the difference between life and death.
Preparing for the Extreme Cold
Power outages are common during snow and ice storms. Older homes are known to be drafty with air gaps around doors and windows. Keeping your elderly loved one warm is the number one priority. The best way to prepare ahead of time is to properly seal up the home and have an alternative heat source available. This could be:
- A kerosene heater with extra fuel
- Firewood already cut and stacked
- Electric space heaters
- Extra blankets in an easily accessible location
When using alternative heat sources, it is very important to ensure that proper safety precautions are taken to make the benefit worth it. Make sure cords are tucked away so they are not tripping hazards. Make sure that if a kerosene heater will be used that you have an open and ventilated area to operate it. Chimneys should be cleaned and inspected in the fall. Also, check smoke detector batteries and make sure working carbon monoxide detectors are placed around the home.
Staying Safe in Extreme Heat
The elderly are prone to heat disorders that push their frailer bodies closer to dangerous exhaustion. Exhaustion puts those with heart or blood pressure problems at a greater risk for health complications. Making sure the elderly are well-hydrated and have access to air conditioning can make all the difference. Before expected high temperatures arrive, take these recommended precautions to keep your aging loved one as safe as possible:
- Install window air conditioning units in the most frequented rooms
- Seal any gaps along the doorways and windows to retain cooler air
- Hang or close existing curtains that cover windows where sunlight streams in
- Close outdoor louvers or awnings (80% heat reduction!)
- Check in on the person frequently and if necessary offer to take them somewhere to cool off for a while, such as your home, a restaurant, or a mall.
Preparing for Extreme Storms
We know they will happen every year. We usually make a mad dash out for the essentials, but many seniors can’t and shouldn’t be out in the chaos of trying to find a carton of eggs and bottled water. The number one most important way to protect the senior in your life from unwelcome extreme weather storms is to get and stay prepared well in advance.
Here are a few of the recommended practical tips to stay ahead of the threat of extreme weather:
Keep a Survival Kit: this should include items such as a flashlight, extra batteries, battery-powered radio, an extra blanket or two, jacket, first aid kit, reading material, and any special needs requirements such as incontinence products, hearing aid batteries, creams, and toiletries
Clean Drinking Water: the Centers for Disease Control recommend keeping five gallons of water per person on hand for emergencies
Food: canned goods, dried fruits, and vacuum sealed dried goods like crackers and cereal
Medicines: having a small stash of needed medications set aside for the most vulnerable times of year could prevent unneeded emergencies. Check expiration dates and replenish regularly.
With all of these items, it is important to refresh and update the supplies annually if not more often.
When it comes to protecting seniors during extreme weather conditions, paying attention to heat indexes is important as they are more sensitive to what the heat feels like rather than the actual temperature. What may not be extreme to us may be overwhelming to them. What is more, windier conditions in the winter can make a drafty home colder, and bring on chills.
Following the above few simple tips can ensure the safety of your loved one is extremes of hot and cold and give you peace of mind.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety. Available at http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/pdf/extreme-cold-guide.pdf. Last Visited January 22, 2016.
Ready.gov. Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security. Extreme Heat. Available at http://www.ready.gov/heat. Last Visited January 22, 2016.