Category Archives: Emergency Preparedness for Seniors

Senior Safety Tips for Summer Heat

As summer temperatures soar this summer, so do the health risks for seniors:

Sunburns are particularly dangerous for older adults. Not only because of the risk for serious skin damage, but because seniors are at greater risk for bacterial infections and other complications.

Prolonged exposure to excessive heat and humidity can result in heat exhaustion — a serious medical condition which, if untreated, can lead to heat stroke, a life-threatening situation that requires emergency care.

Dehydration is constant concern for seniors during hot weather because the ability to sense thirst often diminishes with age. Dehydration can cause dizziness that leads to falls, confusion, or disorientation.

Older adults are also more susceptible to breathing problems due to poor air quality caused by heat and humidity.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control that will help you or your aging parent or loved one stay safe in the summer heat:

• Drink Plenty of Fluids. During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour… Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol, or large amounts of sugar—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

• Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen. Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

• Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully. If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover.

• Pace Yourself. If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

• Stay Cool Indoors. Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

• Use a Buddy System. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

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Disaster Planning Tips for Older Adults

It’s been a brutal year for natural disasters. The Midwest and Southeastern states have been devastated by tornadoes. Epic flooding is destroying communities along the Mississippi. And hurricane season along the East Coast is just around the corner.

When it comes to dealing with disasters, the time to get ready is NOW, not when everyone around you is scrambling to prepare for an impending flood or a hurricane.

This is particularly true for older adults who live alone and the caregivers on whom many older adults depend. That’s because most older adults need to customize their emergency preparations with supplies and planning that meets their specific needs. For example:

…because older adults become dehydrated more easily, it’s a good idea to store more water than recommended… make sure that the jugs aren’t too heavy. For those who choose not to buy storage containers or bottled water, a sanitized two-liter plastic soda bottle might be a better option than gallon jugs. Caps should be easily removed by someone with arthritis.

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Here are just a few of the critical disaster planning questions that older adults and caregivers should consider:

• Do you need low-salt or high-fiber foods? Do you need to maintain sugar levels because of diabetes?

• Do you have enough essential prescription meds and healthcare supplies to last at least 14 days?

• In the event of an evacuation, do you have a plan in place to contact friends and family? Do you know what to take — and what to leave behind?

Need help getting started? Get a copy of The University of Florida’s incredibly useful guide, “Disaster Planning Tips for Older Adults.” Download your free copy here.

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Aging Parent Safety Tip: Find and Organize Key Documents

A big part of helping aging parents and elderly loved ones stay safe is making sure key documents such as medical records, and insurance policy numbers are organized and easy to find.

It is critical to know where your folks keep important documents. This doesn’t mean you are taking over. It merely means you are asking them to share information you might need some day.

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Some of the information you might need: birth and marriage certificates, military and veteran’s records, brokerage and bank statements, and of course, estate planning documents.

Ask your folks where these important documents are located BEFORE you need them. In a crisis, the last thing you want is to delay essential services because you can’t find the medical or financial info you need.

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Personal Alert Systems: Simple, Effective Technology for Aging at Home Safely

You’ve seen the commercials on television for decades now: An elderly woman is on the floor in her kitchen or bathroom. She’s in pain — and all alone. “Help,” she cries. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

Of course, this iconic commercial is for a well-known brand of personal medical alarm. And although the line itself has become a popular culture punch line, the fact is that personal alert systems are popular because they do one job and do it well…

A solution for the multitude of seniors who need some way to summon emergency help, but don’t want or need a constant “nanny,” may be a personal medical alarm. Personal medical alarms are likely the oldest form of home monitoring technology.

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Perhaps no technology has done more to allow older adults to age at home safely and independently than the personal alert system. If you’re in trouble, you just push a button and a dispatcher notifies a designated contact person.

Today the idea behind personal alarms for the elderly has evolved into monitoring systems for the entire home. These sophisticated systems use various combinations of cameras, motion sensors, and connected devices to track an eldrely person’s every move — from getting in and out of bed, to using the toilet, to taking medication on time. These comprehensive systems may make the most sense for seniors who suffer from dementia or who might forget to push a button.

Click here for helpful information about choosing the right personal alert montoring systems for yourself or an elderly parent or loved one.

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Get Ready Now! Emergency Preparedness for Seniors

After the earthquake and tsunami  in Japan, disaster planning and emergency preparedness for seniors is a hot topic for many families and caregivers. Many seniors have limited mobility or cognitive challenges that put them at risk during emergencies.ᅠ

…you have residents who are oxygen-dependent, bed/wheelchair-bound, immobile, have Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairments, and a host of other issues that may complicate an already tricky evacuation process…

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When it comes to helping seniors deal with emergencies and natural disasters, it pays to follow the Boy Scout motto and “Be Prepared.” Don’t wait until it’s too late to help yourself or an elderly loved one.

Get ready now! Check out this excellent advice on emergency preparedness for older Americans from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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