Preparation Can be Life Saving – Get Seniors Ready Before the Storm

Family caregivers worry about those things that could potentially affect their senior loved ones and are always on high alert for one to happen.

Are you on edge at times, waiting and worrying, especially for things we can see coming, like severe weather?

Have you prepared for what could happen?

We have already seen areas around the US hit with strong winter storms before Thanksgiving — and some even before Halloween.

Many were out of power and out of daylight as the snow covered windows and doors. Did you see the picture of homes covered deeply in snow?

If you weren’t this time, you and your senior loved one could be affected next in the coming winter storm season. Those images make us all thankful it wasn’t us digging out or our senior loved ones who were buried behind an avalanche of ice and snow.

Because we feel that way, it is important to plan ahead before the storm hits us.

Winter Weather Issues

Winter snow and ice are not only a possibility in the northeast, Midwest or mountains of the Northwest. Did you know that crippling and dangerous ice and snow affects people in the south too, even the deep south?

We have lived through ice storms and snow in southern states ourselves and realize that it is possibly even worse when it happens there, since it is unexpected and no one is prepared to handle the consequences. There aren’t enough road plows or de-icing protocols that help prevent the worst or recover when the storm blows through.

There are a variety of winter weather conditions, besides just snow, that should concern family caregivers due to their ability to make life unsafe for our senior loved ones especially if they are living alone.

  • Freezing rain is rain that freezes once it hits the ground covering everything with a coating of ice including walkways, sidewalks, trees, driveways and roads. It leaves in its aftermath, an unsafe condition.
  • Sleet is rain that forms into ice pellets as it falls to the ground. Once it covers the ground it causes dangerous conditions on roads and walkways.
  • Black or clear ice is a coating of ice on a surface that creates an invisible hazard to drivers or people who are walking.
  • Winter storm watches and warnings are forecasted so that we can make certain preparations to be safe before, during and after the storm. A winter storm alert includes conditions where precipitation is changed into other forms due to low temperatures. Conditions are favorable for sleet, freezing rain and snow to form. Ground temperatures are also low enough to allow the snow and ice to stick thereby resulting in hazards.
  • A wintery mix is when there is a mix between rain, sleet, freezing rain and/or snow.
  • A snowstorm is when large amounts of snow fall. As little as two inches of snowfall can lead to unsafe travel. A blizzard is a massive snowstorm characterized by heavy sustained winds with gusts of 35 mph and snow that is falling or blowing.

Dangers Caused by Winter Weather

Besides just feeling cold and having cabin fever during the winter months, there is a very real danger of physical harm when winter storms hit. Consequences of severe winter weather that can negatively impact the health and safety of senior loved ones include:

  • Power and communication outages
  • Heart attack from overexertion
  • Hypothermia and frostbite
  • Heating related fires
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning and asphyxiation
  • Falls with fractures
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Car accidents

While we can’t always prevent these things from happening, we can prepare for them to impact our senior loved ones.

Be Prepared Before a Winter Storm

Being ready for whatever comes, planning ahead, and being organized when disaster does strike are all qualities to which family caregivers aspire. We are fixers and planners; otherwise each day would be more of a struggle than perhaps even we can handle.

With each new season of the year, there are new to do items on our list. Winter is no different and it is important that we are one step ahead of winter weather.

We have a few tips for items that you should be gathering together and keep handy before the storm as well as some household tasks that should be done so that your senior is comfortable and safe in their home this winter.

Winter Storm Supplies

Supplies that you should keep on hand (best if stored together or in a duffel bag for easy access):

  • Flashlight with extra batteries (check to be sure it is functioning before you need it)
  • First aid supplies
  • Extra prescriptions in case you can’t get to the pharmacy
  • Nonperishable foods
  • Water – three days supply of two gallons per person per day
  • Emergency heat source such as a fireplace or space heater that are properly vented
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Rock salt
  • Snow shovel
  • Extra blankets
  • Get a weather radio
  • Matches in a dry storage container
  • ID and extra keys
  • Evacuation bag ready with supplies in case a shelter is needed

Home Preparation Steps

  1. Insulate your pipes to prevent freezing
  2. Cover water spigots
  3. Know where water and gas shutoff valves are located in case they are needed
  4. Seal cracks and air leaks in house
  5. Cover windows to prevent penetration of cold or loss of heat
  6. Service snow removal equipment
  7. Insulate home walls and attic
  8. Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector (install if not in use)
  9. Store additional heating fuel if able
  10. Gas tank in car should be near full to avoid freezing lines
  11. Install snow fences in areas where drifts could hinder paths

Doing some of these proactive maintenance items as well as gathering together essential emergency supplies will give you some peace of mind that your senior loved one will be safe in the next storm.

Other Steps You Might Want to Take

These are a few other precautionary steps you can take to be ready in any emergency.

  1. Contact the local utility company and let them know that your senior is alone and may need assistance in an emergency especially if they require electrical medical devices.
  2. Be sure you know how to operate medical equipment in an emergency and that back up batteries are available.
  3. Know where your senior should go for any evacuation location and how they will get there.
  4. Set up a means of communication in case of power outage.

What other precautions have you taken to be ready? We would love to add them to our list!