Bad weather is always on the horizon, especially in Houston. Inclement weather poses an even greater threat for seniors due to power outages, heat, and even gas leaks. According to the CDC, “Older adults are more vulnerable than younger adults during a disaster because they are more likely to have impaired physical mobility, diminished sensory awareness, chronic health conditions, or social and economic limitations that interfere with their ability to prepare for disasters and to respond and adapt during such events.” Follow these tips to better care for seniors during times like this.
Power outages are a common hazard in bad weather. There are a few things you should do before a storm even occurs.
- If electronic care for seniors is required—such as home monitoring systems, refrigeration for medicine, etc.—the local electric utility company should be notified before a storm occurs so that they can put your loved on a list for immediate or priority service during a power outage. Notify them today if you haven’t already.
- If a storm is coming, be sure to charge your phones before the power goes out. Keep a list of phone numbers for utility and emergency services handy. This includes numbers to the fire department, police, and home care providers. Make sure this list is easily available so that it can be located quickly.
- Make sure flashlights and radios are accessible and equipped with batteries. Extra batteries should be on-hand as well.
- Blankets, non-perishable foods, and water should be stockpiled in the event that the storm lasts several days and the power stays off.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Almost anything that burns—wood, gas, kerosene, etc.—produces carbon monoxide. According to the CDC, “Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled. When power outages occur during natural disasters and other emergencies, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating or cooking can cause CO to build up.” During storms, people may be inclined to light fires for heat or light, so carbon monoxide leakage is a possibility.
- Install battery-operated carbon monoxide and smoke detectors near potential fire or carbon monoxide hazards.
- Ask your fire department to recommend a chimney inspector, and have your flues cleaned out if necessary.
- Always open a window—jus a little bit—when using a kerosene stove.
- Never ever heat your home using a gas stove or charcoal grill. Never.
Storms typically produce water, and water causes surfaces to become slippery. According to the CDC, “One out of three older people falls each year [and] one out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.”
- Purchase boots with non-skid sole to prevent slippage outside during or after rainfall. There are socks available with non-slip bottoms that are ideal for inside if water has been tracked in, as well as for keeping your feet cozy.
- If you or a loved one uses a cane, make sure the rubber tip is replaced before it becomes worn and smooth.
Obviously, driving is more dangerous during storms. According to the CDC, “Fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at ages 70‒74 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older. This is largely due to increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.” In order to better care for seniors and reduce the dangers of driving during bad weather:
- Weatherize your car ahead of time, which means having tires, wipers, and fluids checked and changed regularly.
- Keep an emergency kit in the car that includes first aid supplies, blankets, booster cables, a jacket or sweater, a windshield scraper, cat litter for tire traction, bottled water and canned food, a flashlight and shovel.
- Check news reports for road conditions before going out.
- Encourage your loved ones to let you know where they’re going if they choose to be out during a storm (or anytime, really).