ComForCare Home Care Serving Somerset & Northern Middlesex Countries

Posts Tagged emergency prep

Winter Safety Tips for Older Adults

Wednesday , December 4 , 2019

Winter Safety Tips for Older Adults

Winter weather is bad for everything: Your car, your house, your knees, your heating bill. But it’s especially bad for older adults. According to the CDC, as people get older, they’re more likely to die from extreme cold or winter-weather events.

Senior citizens are less likely to sense cold than younger adults, and they don’t shiver as much, so they can’t generate as much heat. Other factors, such as thinning skin, lower muscle density, and side effects from medication can further add to the risk. It’s a recipe for disaster.

If you have elderly family, friends, or neighbors, check in with them this winter and share these safety tips:

Avoiding Frostbite and Hypothermia

Cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia for anyone, but the risk is especially high for people over the age of 65.

Hypothermia, a condition where the body temperature drops too low, can occur when you are out in the cold for an extended period. Similarly, frostbite occurs when your body experiences damage to the skin from extreme cold.

The key to avoiding both lies in staying covered up, warm, and out of the elements. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Don’t let indoor temperatures dip below 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Dress in layers
  • If you’re going outside, wear warm socks, a heavy coat, hat, gloves, and scarf
  • Cover all exposed skin
  • Stay dry

Your body temperature should never dip below 95 degrees – if it does, seek medical assistance immediately. Also, remember that shivering is not a good indicator of body temperature, as older adults tend to shiver less!

Stay Safe While Shoveling

Shoveling snow is one of the worst parts of winter, and NO ONE likes to do it. But while it might be an annoyance to you, it can pose a true danger to senior citizens. If your older loved one likes to do their own shoveling, make sure they take some precautions.

  • Ask the doctor whether shoveling snow is advisable
  • Remember that your heart works double time in cold weather and take frequent breaks
  • Wear comfortable, non-slip boots
  • As always, dress appropriately (several thin layers is better than one heavy layer)

Prevent Slipping on Ice

During the winter, icy sidewalks, snowy roads, and slippery steps make it easy to trip and fall. Unfortunately, falls are a common occurrence for older adults – especially during the colder months. Just one misstep can lead to a sprained ankle, fractured hip, or something much worse.

To help prevent slips and falls, take the following precautions:

  • Wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles
  • Replace worn cane tips
  • Consider an ice pick-like attachment that fits onto the end of the cane
  • Make sure steps and walkways are clear and salted before heading outside
  • Take off shoes once you return indoors to avoid making the floor wet

Stay Safe Indoors

During the winter months, many people choose to use a gas or kerosene heater, fireplace, or lantern to help keep warm. Unless they are properly vented and cleaned before use, they can leak carbon monoxide (the “silent killer”) into the home. These portable heat sources can also be fire hazards.

Before you use them:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors, if you don’t already have them
  • Replace batteries on your existing detectors
  • Call a professional to inspect chimneys and flues
  • Crack a window when using a kerosene heater
  • Make sure heaters are at least three feet from anything that might catch fire

If you think you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide, get outside immediately and seek medical attention.

Winter Storms and Power Outages

Depending on where you live in the country, winter weather can be a very serious problem. Here in the northeast, we often experience heavy snow and high winds – which often lead to power outages.

To help your older loved one stay prepared:

  • Stock up with at least seven days of food and water
  • Keep food items that are non-perishable, such as canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, etc.
  • Have a supply of flashlights and fresh batteries on hand in case the power goes out
  • Stockpile warm blankets
  • Stash some salt or cat litter to help your older loved on gain traction on icy surfaces
  • Get absorbent pads for pets who normally get walked outside

Fighting Seasonal Depression

Many people, both young and old, struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For older adults, who may already feel isolated and alone, it can be especially difficult. Cold air and bad weather can make it even more difficult to get out and see others, which can lead to loneliness and depression.

To help them beat the winter blues, arrange for family members, neighbors, and friends to check in often – even if it’s just by phone. You may also consider arranging transportation to and from an adult daycare a couple days a week, or even hiring a home aide to check in on occasion. Just a little bit of conversation can make a huge difference!

Final Thoughts

Winter can be tough – but a little preparation can make it a lot easier! Help your older adult make it safely through the winter by going over our checklist together and making sure they have everything they need.

Did we miss anything? What’s on your winter prep checklist that we didn’t cover?

Posted in: Aging

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Disaster Preparedness for Older Adults

Monday , September 9 , 2019

Disaster Preparedness for Older Adults

With the Bahamas and the Southeast United States so recently pummeled by yet another hurricane, it seems like the perfect time to ask: Do you have an emergency preparedness plan?

Studies show that the vast majority of seniors, though they know they need a strategy, do nothing to make it happen.

Older adults often face unique challenges during an emergency. For example, you may have mobility issues or chronic health problems and no one nearby to help out. Or you may receive support services, like Meals on Wheels, that aren’t able to make it out for an extended period of time.

Other issues, such as difficulty hearing or reading, may make it impossible to access or understand emergency instructions, even if they are provided.

The key, then, to successfully navigating a hurricane, tornado, flood, or other natural disaster is to have a plan in place that you review regularly – and make loved ones aware of.

Build a personal support network

The American Red Cross suggests creating a personal support network made up of several individuals that will check in on you during an emergency to ensure your wellness and safety.

There are seven steps they recommend you discuss and implement with your network:

  1. Make arrangements, prior to an emergency, for your support network to immediately check on you after a disaster and, if needed, offer assistance.

  1. Exchange important keys.

  1. Show them where you keep emergency supplies.

  1. Share copies of your relevant emergency documents, evacuation plans and emergency health information card.

  1. Agree on and practice methods for contacting each other in an emergency. Do not count on the telephones working.

  1. You and your personal support network should always notify each other when you are going out of town and when you will return.

  1. The relationship should be mutual. Learn about each other’s needs and how to help each other in an emergency.

Note: If you have neighbors that you’re close with, they make great additions to your support network, since they’re already nearby.

Create an emergency supply kit

After an emergency, you may not have access to clean water or electricity. And, even though you have a support network, it may take a little while for anyone to be able to reach you.

Experts suggest being prepared with enough food, water, and other essential items to last for at least 72 hours (some say 7 to 10 days).

At the most basic level, your kit should include:

  • Non-perishable foods such as dry cereals, canned fruit and vegetables, granola bars, or peanut butter crackers
  • Bottled water
  • Medication
  • Spare clothing
  • Pet food (if you have pets)
  • Extra keys to your house and car
  • Glasses or contact lenses
  • First aid kit
  • Waterproof matches
  • Flashlight
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Can opener
  • Basic toiletries
  • Cash
  • Cell phone charger
  • Spare hearing aid batteries
  • Battery powered radio
  • Whistle to signal for help

Also, consider creating a care plan and keeping a copy in your emergency supply kit for first responders, so they can be made aware of any special needs. The CDC has an easy template.

Familiarize yourself with local resources

Whether you’re a senior yourself or a loved one/caregiver, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local resources before a disaster takes place. Most areas should have an emergency shelter nearby, planned escape routes, and a viable source of medical assistance. In addition, you should also have contact information for your local:

  • Police department
  • Fire department
  • Hospitals
  • Water supplier
  • Power supplier
  • Animal control
  • Poison control

Final thoughts

At ComForCare, an important part of our client assessments is having our RN assign a “Class Code” to each client. Keeping an up-to-date list of our client codes helps us quickly determine, in the event of a emergency situation, which of our clients are at the highest risk. Those who have “live-in” aides are sure to have support, but those who rely on our home health aides reaching them may have delays in service. Our office will be in touch with clients, family members and our employees and we will do everything possible to get timely help to those who need us.

During Hurricane Sandy, we had intrepid aides on the roads the morning after the storm navigating around downed trees and power lines to make it to their shifts, while Roger and I charged our phones in the car so we could stay in touch with clients and aides.

And when big snow storms have hit, we have had aides stay overnight with their clients, even sleeping on the floor at times, to be sure they can be there in the morning for client who truly needs them.

But at times there can be delays in service, and being prepared individually prepared is the best way to be sure of making it through an emergency situation safely and as comfortably as possible.

Further support

The following resources can offer additional information and assistance in the event of an emergency or disaster situation:

  • Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters. This allows New Jersey residents with disabilities or access and functional needs and their families, friends, caregivers and associates an opportunity to provide information to emergency response agencies so emergency responders can better plan to serve them in a disaster or other emergency.
  • SMART911 or Code Red are additional services that can help first responders identify people who might need assistance right away
  • FEMA Emergency Financial First Aid Kit
  • FEMA Pet Owner’s Fact Sheet
  • gov tips on building and storing your Emergency Kit

Posted in: Aging

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