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It’s Summer: Prepare Your Aging Parents and Elderly Clients

July 1, 2012

Heat waves, tornadoes, wild thunderstorms, and wildfires-they’ve all made headlines this past week. I was astonished to see that 26 states were experiencing an intense heat wave. In some places temperatures are well above 100. It seems a bit early to me for us to be battling these issues even before July 4th, but then I remembered the floods and tornadoes of last year in May and early June.

You’re probably tired of hearing about the disasters, but repetition of certain warnings seems to bring better understanding to the dangers. For today’s post I decided to reiterate ways to help your aging parents and elderly clients prepare for any number of emergencies. It doesn’t take much time or money to set up a small stockpile of nutritious foods and a water supply in case the electricity or water is turned off.

On the east coast a storm earlier this week left millions without power. In the Jersey shore town I am visiting a water main broke and residents have been told to boil water for the next four to five days. The wildfires in Colorado continue to burn, threatening homes and communities while making the air difficult to breathe. We will probably continue to read and hear about similar events for the next four months. Regardless of where you live a disaster situation can unfold and claim innocent victims due to lack of preparation.

Let me cut to the chase and give you a few simple solutions:

* Have a supply of clean water set aside for emergencies. I have six 3-gallon bottles filled with spring water stored in the extra bedroom closet. If your elders are frail use gallon bottles or even smaller juice bottles that are easy for them to handle.

* A small stockpile of nutritious food that doesn’t need to be cooked can be kept in a small space. Peanut butter, whole grain crackers, canned tuna or sardines, canned fruits and vegetables, vegetable juice, ready to serve soups. All of this can be eaten cold and supplemented with fruits or vegetables already on hand.

* Keep extra batteries and flashlights located on every floor. Some advise candles, but if there is any cognitive loss I prefer flashlights.

* Extra blankets on hand are nice if seniors live in an area where the nights get cool.

* In the event of an evacuation order vehicles need to be ready to go. My recommendation is to never let the gas tank get below 1/2 full in the summer. Regular car maintenance gives greater peace of mind for unexpected road trips.

* A small evacuation kit has been discussed in a previous post and we’ll go back to this subject, but as a reminder it needs to be kept in an easily accessible location and stocked with the essentials.

* For seniors living in areas of high risk emergency events (tornadoes, floods, fires, hurricanes) they should also keep extra medications on hand. Remind your parents and clients to refill medications when they have no less than a week left to go before running out

* A list of all medications should be in every wallet and posted on the refrigerator.

* Family contact numbers and a designated emergency contact phone number should be carried in every wallet and posted next to every phone.

 

Now for a few ways to beat the summer heat. With summer comes the heat waves and every year we hear reports of unexpected deaths from the heat. Keeping cool is the best defense against the heat. Below are a few suggestions on how to do so.

* Check with your local Area Agency on Aging to see if your parents or clients qualify for additional help paying their electric bill. Programs have been set up to encourage use of fans and air conditioners for those who struggle financially with paying high electric bills.

* Encourage seniors to drink plenty of fluids (mainly water) and eat foods with high water content (watermelon, lettuce, celery).

* Soak feet in a pan of cool or room temperature water periodically throughout the hottest parts of the day.This aids in keeping body temperatures from rising dangerously high.

* Stick a pan of water in front of the air conditioner or fan to increase room moisture if seniors live in a dry climate.

* Encourage doing outside chores and run errands early in the morning before the heat index gets too high.

* Keep lights and appliance use to a  minimum during daylight hours to keep the home interior cool.

* Eat small, light meals every three to four hours to maintain a metabolic homeostasis.

 

These are just a few suggestions to utilize during the summer months to keep your elderly parents or clients safe and comfortable although they apply to all age groups. One of the best things you can do is maintain regular contact with your aging parents or elderly clients. A short phone call to check on them and monitor their status gives you both some peace of mind. If you live close by make a plan to visit frequently and provide them encouragement to utilize the suggestions listed above.  Spend some quality time reminiscing with them about summers past and positive events the family shared. Summer is a time for “letting go” and relaxing. Please take the time to incorporate that into your busy lives in order to validate and share with your parents, or clients, the joys of summer.

Stay safe, encourage elders to remain safe and comfortable, and enjoy the simple pleasures to be found knowing elders are prepared to meet the unexpected emergencies known to occur in summer.

 

 

As always, I would love to hear your stories, questions, and comments on this post. This blog is for you so your feedback helps me meet your needs.

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