Keeping elders safe during a blizzard
While kids get excited about the idea of a snow day, bearing a severe winter storm can be a dangerous situation for the elderly, especially if they rely on help from a caregiver. That’s why it’s important to make sure your love one is prepared for the worst if the weather outside doesn’t allow you or another caregiver to visit for a day or two.
FEMA offers some tips on keeping safe during a snowstorm, such as the one that hit Omaha yesterday and early this morning. Most importantly, it’s best to know ahead of time what to do to help elderly or disabled friends, family and neighbors. If this is the case, have an emergency contact list and see if someone living nearby, such as a trusted neighbor, can help out in a pinch.
- Prepare for possible isolation. Have enough heating fuel, such as wood for a fireplace or wood-burning stove, in case regular fuel sources are cut off.
- Winterize the home. Insulating walls and the attic, caulking and weather-stripping doors/windows and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic will help to extend the life of the fuel supply.
- Insulate pipes. Use newspapers and plastic to insulate pipes and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather, helping to avoid freezing.
- Get a fire extinguisher. Many people use alternate heating methods during a blizzard, which can cause a fire if certain precautions aren’t taken, so it’s best to make sure your loved one, their neighbor and other caregivers all know how to use a fire extinguisher.
- Know how to shut off water valves. Every house is different, so make sure you and any other caregivers know how to shut off water valves in case one bursts.
- Make sure their roof can sustain heavy snowfall. You may need to hire a contractor to check this.
- Have winter supplies on hand. It’s best to have sidewalk salt, sand, snow removal equipment, etc. on hand at your loved one’s home.
Have a safety plan in place before a blizzard hits
- Have numbers of local organizations, such as the Red Cross that can help in an emergency.
- Make sure family members (especially long distance) know where their elderly loved one plans to be during the storm and how to reach them.
- Find relatives or friends who can take in and/or offer extra caregiving support during a snowstorm as needed.
- Make sure to stock up on items for special dietary needs (low sodium, diabetic, etc.).
- Likewise, make sure your loved one has enough medication before the storm threatens.
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