Emergencies that knock out power can leave older adults vulnerable, especially those who depend on electric-powered medical devices. Take steps to prepare … just in case.
Start your emergency planning by creating a kit of must-have items—see “Emergency Essentials” below for a list of things to include. The Department of Homeland Security recommends stockpiling enough nonperishable food and water to last at least three days. Chris Makuck, PT, Home Health Manager at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital, advises keeping at least one week’s supply of prescription medications on hand.
“If you use supplemental oxygen and have portable oxygen tanks, keep them full at all times in the event of an emergency,” Makuck says. “Life-sustaining medical devices, such as ventilators, typically have a backup battery, but remember that those batteries aren’t meant to provide power for a long time. In the event of an extended power outage that could jeopardize your health, line up transportation to a safer place.”
Here are four important steps seniors can take to remain safe during an emergency:
- Create a plan for evacuating your home and identifying a friend or family member to stay with if you must leave.
- Have your fireplace and ventilation system inspected.
- Keep hallways and other high-traffic areas in your home free of clutter to prevent falls if the power goes out.
- Store emergency supplies, such as a flashlight, first aid kit, blankets, and food and water, in your car.
Identify a place in your home that’s relatively easy to keep warm—a room with a fireplace is a good choice—where you could seek refuge if you were to lose electricity this winter.
Extreme cold is especially dangerous for older adults, who are more susceptible to hypothermia than younger individuals, according to the National Institute on Aging.
“If the power goes out when the temperature is cold, gather your emergency supplies and go to your warm room,” Makuck says. “Place blankets or towels around doors and windows to keep heat in. Then, get in touch with family or friends who can help you decide whether it’s safe for you to stay in your home until power is restored.”
Home Health at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital helps patients and families create emergency plans and keeps copies of those plans on file. For information about Home Health services, which include skilled nursing, wound care, and rehabilitation therapy, call 715.717.7485.
You may also be interested in “5 Ways to Help Seniors Stay Hydrated.”