Snow, storms, power outages, extreme heat, wildfire smoke and other weather events and emergencies can pose extra hazards for seniors. The Spokesman-Review’s recent article entitled “Seniors should make plan to stay safe at home during emergencies” says that good communication, planning and a willingness to ask for and give help are essential in any emergency situation, and can help seniors be prepared for winter, regardless of age. There’s some preparation that can be done that’s specific to older adults.
Have medications on hand: Anticipate prescription medication needs and see if your pharmacy will provide mail order or delivery.
Stay warm enough: Older adults can lose body heat faster, so identify a backup heat source for power or gas outages, like a wood-burning stove or backup generator, and know how to use it safely. Don’t use a gas oven or stove to heat indoors because it can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Stay cool enough: People also have less heat tolerance as they get older, so make sure the air conditioning is in good working condition with clean filters, or have a plan for staying somewhere cool when the temperatures spike.
Make sure you’re connected: Have a plan with a friend, neighbor, or relative nearby to check in with older adults during heat waves, power outages and storms. If the power goes out, phones can be out, so get a cellphone and learn how to use it.
Air quality matters: The prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is two to three times higher in people over 60, so seniors and people with health concerns should limit time outdoors when air quality is poor. Air filters improve indoor air quality and keep your air conditioning and furnaces running smoothly.
Avoid falls in the dark, wet or snow: Seniors frequently aren’t as stable on their feet, and falls are a leading cause of hospitalization. In snow, it can be useful to use a four-wheel walker with brakes or a quad-cane to walk. In a power outage take extra care when moving around with a flashlight. Consider getting a fall detection and medical alert device that can call the medics and get help quickly in an emergency.
People like to be independent, and that includes seniors.
A little bit of advanced preparation and planning for good communication during an emergency or severe weather can help keep everyone safe and comfortable and avoid a crisis.
Reference: The Spokesman-Review (Nov. 10, 2022) “Seniors should make plan to stay safe at home during emergencies”