How to Keep Your Seniors Safe in a Hurricane

Hurricane season is here and we have vital tips for keeping your seniors safe.

1.  Follow Evacuation Orders

Choosing to stay could put your elderly parents’ lives in danger.  Local officials want people in safe zones  so they won’t have to be

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...
Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near its peak Category 5 intensity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

rescued as services dwindle.   You could also be risking the lives of your rescuers should your situation deteriorate.

2. Plan Your Destination Ahead of Time

Have a place to go to and make sure you know how to get there.  You also need to figure  out how much time it will take, especially if traffic will be heavy. Staying with relatives or friends who are out of the hurricane zone is a good idea.  That’s because motels will most likely be filled up.

A public shelter is not a good place for elderly people to wait out a storm.  Katrina taught us that.

Older people need a quiet environment  and shouldn’t be subjected to the noise and confusion of living amongst   strangers during such difficult times.   It will be challenging enough living with relatives or in a motel.

3. Also Make Plans for Your Senior’s Pets

Don’t forget your mom or dad’s best friend.  Dogs and cats are not welcome in public shelters and must be taken to special pet shelters.  Becoming separated from a loving pet  can create even more stress for your worried parent.   With  a little planning that is one problem which can be avoided.

4. Fill Your Gas Tank and Have Cash on Hand

Running out of gas is the last problem you need.  Getting stranded on the side of the interstate with an elderly person in a steaming hot car could become deadly if your parent has serious health challenges.

You will need cash.  We have become too dependent  upon credit cards but the electricity may be out for days and that means ATM machines will not be working.  Have enough cash on hand to get your through a week or two.  You will literally be living off this money.

5. Keep Prescriptions Packed and Organized

Have a list of all your parent’s prescriptions and refill them early if you think you may be running out.  Make sure all the bottles and prescription tray boxes are packed and ready to go.  Be prepared with an ice chest if their meds have to be refrigerated.

6. Keep All Documents and Important Papers in a Safe Place

This should go without saying, but I have personally experienced the frustration of  losing vital papers during the flood we had two

View of the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina taken...
View of the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina taken on Aug. 28, 2005, as seen from a NOAA WP-3D Orion hurricane hunter aircraft before the storm made landfall on the United States Gulf Coast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

years ago.  We lost my father’s will and cemetery deeds when our basement flooded.    My grandfather had bought the  plots in 1919 and they were supposed to last us at least one more generation.

Put everything is a safety deposit box.  You might include all your insurance papers as well as  photographs of your house and contents.  Take copies of the insurance papers with you so you will know whom to contact for making claims.

The Girl Scout motto, “Always Be Prepared” certainly applies to hurricane season.  By planning ahead of time you can avoid a lot of the problems and headaches your older seniors shouldn’t have to go through.

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How Does Your Nursing Home Staff Really Feel About You and Your Elderly Parents?

Group of nurses, Base Hospital #45
Group of nurses, Base Hospital #45 (Photo credit: The Library of Virginia)

Here is a popular video from a nursing home staff  as they explain their feelings about their jobs. It is interesting to see how staffers think and what their work ethic is all about. These are the good nurses and nurse assistants, we might add. Unfortunately, there are those working with our elderly and seniors who are not so dedicated.

Here are some of their comments…

“A nursing home operates 24 hours per day.”
That’s significant because we sometimes forget they are constantly on the job, regardless of the clock.
“When you work in a nursing home you have to everyday go that extra mile with somebody. You can’t say, I’m tired, I don’t feel well.”

“You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to understand the residents, their needs.”

“It takes something within somebody. Everybody just can’t do it. Everybody can’t deal with what we deal with everyday.”

I think that is the biggest reason why some of us have a hard time dealing with eldercare. We have to change ourselves and our way of thinking to handle all the problems of working with aging parents who often act a lot like children.

“As long as you’re here for the right reason. As long as you’re here, not just to do a job, but you feel something you’re doing for other people, then it will get easier and it got a lot easier for me.”

As always, the viewers’ comments are also interesting, and in some cases, somewhat explosive.
One comment caught my attention. “…Thanks to the baby boomers (that would be many of us) for costing a fortune in healthcare and leaving your debts behind.”
My answer to that is some of us are paying almost $1,000 per month in healthcare premiums, but I still see his point.
This could be a future issue some of the younger generation members feel strongly about. They may rebel against us and against the expense of senior care in the future.

Another comment from a nursing home staffer is more poignant, “… It’s human to get frustrated, but I check myself all the time, asking  am I treating them like I would want someone to treat my mom and dad?”

This statement by one of the staffers in the vid is the one I would like for us to have as our takeaway because it is so positive. She states when the family shows appreciation, “It just brings my heart joy.”  Hopefully that sums of the feelings of many who work with our elderly on a daily basis.

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3 Main Warning Signs Your Aging Parents May Need More Help

Mary Alexander from Home Instead Senior Care has an excellent video series on how to recognize and respond as your aging parents develop more needs. This can be one of the most difficult times in your parents’ lives as well as your own. Many of us who have been there can certainly testify to that.

However, it is our responsibility as children to step in and observe exactly what is going on with our parents and to respond. This can be exhausting as well as heartbreaking if you wait too long.  If you stay on top of things and get to the problems early, you can avoid  disaster.

The series covers the 3 main areas you will need to concentrate on as you watch your parents get older.
1. Physical symptoms and Mental emotional changes
2. Loss of attention signals
3. Environmental clues

Video 1: How to Recognize the Need for Care

Video 2:  Physical Symptoms and Mental Emotional Changes

Here are the main changes you need to look out for. These will be the most obvious and your parents’ neighbors and friends will have most likely become aware of these changes before you do.

Is your parent experiencing loss of energy?  Is she still involved with social activities, church and hobbies?  If not, there may be a health issue involved.

Does your mom of dad go from being happy to crying within seconds?  Are they having difficulty getting up or trouble balancing themselves?  What about loss of appetite?  Are you hearing, ‘I’m not hungry’ too often?

 Video 3: Loss of Attention Signals

Is your senior citizen parent having difficulty with good grooming? That could be a signal of dementia, depression or other health issues.

If your senior is still driving, you really need to pay attention to what is going on. Driving is a huge issue because not only is your parent’s life at stake, but the lives of others can be endangered also if your parent is impaired while driving.

Checking your elderly parents’  medications is another vital point. You need to see if they are taking their meds properly and you can do that by counting the pills in the bottles and checking the dates.

Are your parents misplacing things too often? Is their housekeeping poor? Is there spoiled food in the refrigerator?

Video 4: Taking Action and Where to Seek Help

There is hope and help. Remember you are not the first to experience old age with parents and there will be many after you. There are lots of resources and advice as well as many people who are willing to assist you with elder care needs.

Talk to your parent and share your concerns. Do your homework and have your list of  needs which should be taken care of  before approaching your parent.

Getting a checkup for your parent is another good idea because she may have been neglecting doctors appointments. If health issues are being ignored it’s a good idea to go with your parent. Everyone needs an advocate. You can listen and understand the doctor’s instructions as well as make  sure all follow up visits and tests are scheduled.

Lastly, you can help keep your aging mother or dad safer in their home with better lighting or even by simply taking up small throw rugs so they won’t stumble. The small changes which are made can go a long way toward keeping your senior healthier as well as happier.

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You’re Being Watched

You are being watched while you care give.  You may not have noticed but others are noticing you and what you do.  They are observing your quiet work and often times they admire you for it.

How do I know this?

I have been surprised by the comments I have received from people who have come up to me and  have acknowledged my caregiving for my aging parents.  I’m getting comments like, ” thank you for what you are doing.”  That’s odd, considering the people giving the compliments usually aren’t relatives.  They are neighbors, people I go to church with,  the staff at the doctor’s office, or the barber who cuts my father’s hair.

What’s significant is I didn’t think other people noticed, much less cared.  But they do.  That’s why it is more important than ever that we set the right example, especially for those who are younger.  Remember, they may be caregiving  for us some day.  What goes around comes around, right?

But there is something even more powerful happening.  We live in a world that is often cold,  heartless and seemingly hopeless. But it doesn’t have to be that way.   The way we care for  our elderly proves we are determined to make things better, one person at a time.  From there we form our own communities as we surround ourselves with new friends who are also caregiving.  We can learn from them  as they learn from us.  It is an enrichment process which adds new dimensions to our lives.

Yes, it is difficult.  No one said it would be easy.  We covered some of those problems in the post last week when we discussed the exhaustion many of us feel.    But there is something rewarding about having an elderly parent you can help take care of.  You are giving back and that certainly makes you  feel better,especially if your parents sacrificed a great deal to raise you.

Sometimes, I think it can be compared to childcare in some ways. You can feel a certain  pride when your aging parent is reasonably happy, well adjusted and thriving, in spite of illness, handicaps and challenges.  As we’ve pointed out, other people notice.

This reminds me of a 97 year old  lady who recently died in the last week.   She looked years younger, babysat her great-grandchildren regularly and quickly let everyone know  not to call her while her favorite show, The Price Is Right, was on.  She enjoyed good health almost up until the end, when she told her family she wasn’t feeling good.

She’s one of the exceptions.  Most people don’t enjoy that high standard of living to such an advanced age, but we can make the most of our own situations.  We can do that by taking the time to be with our parents.  What I mean by that is to really talk to them.  Learn more about their lives and the little details we hadn’t been aware of.  These are also the gems we can write down and pass on to the next generation. Savor the extra time together you’ve been blessed with.

For example, I’ve learned new things about my elderly uncle.  I hadn’t realized he was serving in Italy during WWII when Mt. Vesuvius erupted.  He was also stationed at a school and came back one evening to take a shower. He kept hearing a man singing in the courtyard below and thought the man  sang every well.  He didn’t realize it was Frank Sinatra giving a show to the troops until later.

We are not doing the best job we can caregiving just because we are being watched by neighbors, friends, even strangers.  We are doing it because we are called to serve in this particular way and we are discovering it can be very rewarding.

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