Senior Center

Caring for Seniors During Winter Storms

By Jan Bolder - January 3, 2014

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In case there's been any doubt, winter has arrived with a bang. And with the snow, wind, freezing rain, and frigid temperatures come a need to be cautious and safe, especially for seniors. 

Power Outages: The recent ice storm knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of Americans, some for over a week. While it's uncomfortable and inconvenient at worst for adults, prolonged power outages can be life-threatening for seniors. Check in on seniors frequently to make sure their okay, as the older people get, the more vulnerable they are to large drops in temperature. See that seniors have enough batteries, blankets, candles/flashlights, water, food and medication. 

Particularly at risk are seniors who rely on power for their medical equipment, such as those who use home dialysis machines, CPAP machines or ventilators, power stair chair lifts, or electric beds. If seniors use any of these and they're not pneumatically powered, their lives could be in danger and they'd need professional supervision, either at home or in a medical setting. You should also contact the local utility company to let them know because this kind of situation puts seniors closer to the top of the list in terms of restoring power.

Heavy Snowfall: When the snow starts to fall and near record numbers, it's time to stay inside. Unless you're a paramedic transporting people to a hospital or an on-call doctor, there's not usually a good reason to be risking life and limb on slippery, snow-covered roads. Load up on non-perishable groceries, which will last even if the power goes out for days. 

Outdoor Excursions: If you do go outside with your senior, dress the part. It only takes a couple of minutes in minus degree temperatures for hypothermia - and frostbite - to set in, and it's so easy to prevent. Although it might seem like a huge bother to spend time putting on layers, even if you're only going out for a short bit, you never know what can happen. Weather can change in a quick hurry, car accidents seem to come out of nowhere, and it's always easier to spend a minute preparing than cursing yourself for an entire evening for not.

Take Your Time: As seniors age, their bodies start to break down and parts aren't as reliable or reactive as they used to be, which means that a simple task like walking now requires a whole lot more thought. Along with physical impairments and treacherous weather making walking more difficult, there's also the fear of falling. You don't want to walk so slowly that the sun falls before you reach your destination, but you also want to stay within your limits. And don't worry about other people getting impatient with you. Take your time and keep safe, and frustrated people around you will move on and forget. The important thing is to keep safe.