If severe weather is expected or has just occurred, or if another type of emergency has occurred, check in on older friends and family members to ensure that they are okay and that they have the resources they need to stay safe and healthy.
You can check in on an older loved one or neighbor by telephone, video call, or in-person. If visiting their home, wear a face mask, maintain 6 feet distance, and wash hands or use hand sanitizer often.
Do a Risk Assessment
- Does he or she depend on oxygen?
- Does he or she need help walking?
- Does he or she need help getting to the bathroom?
- Has he or she fallen?
- Does he or she need medical attention?
Check Vital Supplies
- Does he or she have access to clean drinking water?
- Does he or she have the ability to cook and safely store food?
- Does he or she have access to healthy, non-perishable food that can be prepared without electricity?
- Does he or she have adequate means to keep the temperature in the home in a comfortable range?
- Does he or she have access to an adequate supply of any prescription or over-the-counter medications to maintain his or her health?
- Can he or she safely store and access his or her medications (some may need to be refrigerated or stored on ice)?
Determine Their Access to help
- Does he or she have access to a phone that works, even if the power goes out (cordless phones and voice-over-IP service may not work during a power outage)?
- If he or she has a cell phone for emergencies, is the phone sufficiently charged?
- Instead of asking, "do you have someone to call if you need help?" questions such as, "show me how you would call your daughter if you need her to come help" will be more effective.
During extreme weather (including very hot days), check on older neighbors and loved ones to ensure they are safe and healthy. Key questions to ask include:
- Do they have safe food and water?
- Is the temperature in their home comfortable and conditions safe?
- Do they need medical attention?
- Do they have electricity?
- Do they have alternatives for medical equipment that requires electricity?
- Who will help if they need it?
Wintry conditions like snow, ice, cold temperatures, and winter storms can disrupt our lives and introduce increased risks for older adults.
- Check their home: Is the temperature comfortable? Are they heating it safely? Is there any damage to their home? Are outdoor walkways clear of snow, ice, and debris?
- Check their health: Do they appear alert and aware? Have they fallen? Are they taking their medications as prescribed? Do they need medical attention?
- Check that their daily needs are being met: Do they have safe food and water? Are they able to do what they need to do? Do they have someone to call for support and a reliable way to call for emergency help if they need it?
How to help
Occasionally, during extreme situations, an older adult may appear confused or disoriented. Don't assume this is a normal reaction or due to dementia. Conditions such as dehydration, stress and fatigue can have the same symptoms. When assisting someone who appears confused or disoriented:
- Always treat adults as adults!
- Be friendly, calm and reassuring. Make eye contact and speak slowly and distinctly. Invite him or her to sit with you and have a conversation.
- Use positive language. Instead of "Don't go there," say "Let's go here."
- Ask open-ended questions. Instead of "Do you have enough to eat?" ask "What do you plan on having for breakfast/lunch/dinner?" Ask one question at a time and give time to respond.
- Avoid challenging questions. Instead of "Do you know where you are?" say "I'm glad that I came to visit you at your home today."
- Redirect, don't correct. When someone is confused, he or she may think you are someone you aren't. If he or she calls you another name, say "I haven't seen 'Joe,' but my name is _____ and I'm here to help."
Your area agency on aging can guide you to resources in your community to keep you and your older friends and loved ones safe this winter. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community.