Lately, it seems our headlines have been filled with stories about Mother Nature wreaking havoc on our surroundings. From horrible flooding to fast-spreading wildfires to monster hurricanes, weather and the damage it causes is putting human lives in danger. And as we gear up for a strong El Nino that is expected to bring heavy rains to California and big storms to the East, it doesn’t look like the winter months will bring much relief to many parts of the nation.
And while I certainly always want to keep my family safe, the person I worry about most when bad weather rolls in is my aging father. After all, getting to safety can be especially difficult for older adults.
For example, this article from CNN.com tells about three deaths that resulted from the recent wildfires in California. All three were older adults. Though my dad lives in the same town as me, when a bad storm pops up, I’m not always able to immediately check on his safety. So my husband, dad, and I have taken steps to make sure he’s as protected as possible in any kind of bad weather.
Here are a few tips based on what we’ve learned:
1. Protect against floods. Over the course of the year, we’ve been working to make my dad’s house (and our own) as flood-proof as possible. The first step in our flood-proofing adventure was actually a big surprise to me because it seemed so simple — clean your gutters.
The first step in our flood-proofing adventure was actually a big surprise to me because it seemed so simple — clean your gutters.
In talking to a contractor friend, my husband learned that a well-maintained gutter system can be a big help in protecting the area immediately around your home. And this article on preventing home flood damage backs him up. It states that clogged gutters have been known to cause “erosion, basement flooding and even foundation damage.”
So, we immediately got to work cleaning out my dad’s gutters, and of course, we’re keeping a close eye on them as the leaves fall.
2. Make sure they can access “emergency provisions.” Although I live in the same town as my dad, when bad weather hits, I can’t always get to him immediately. And if the weather were really bad, for example if a hurricane resulted in downed trees and blocked roads, it could potentially be a couple of days before I would get to check on his safety in person. So I made him an emergency safety kit to ensure he’ll have easy access to first aid items if he somehow becomes injured during bad weather.
This article provides a great rundown of the items you should include in the kit — from pain relievers to scissors to rolled bandages and more.
3. Provide transportation. My dad is quite proud of the fact that he can still drive. That said, he’s sometimes overconfident. For example, over the summer, he showed up at our house during a severe thunderstorm. There was a torrential downpour, thunder, lightning, you name it, and there he was ringing my doorbell, explaining he just wanted to check in on us! I had a long talk with him about the unnecessary risks he took and stressed how dangerous it could potentially be for anyone to drive in such weather.
And just recently, I had another talk with him. As winter approaches, I wanted to be sure he knew that he should not be driving in icy or snowy conditions. I took a lesson from the Institute on Aging’s winter tips and let him know that we’d come get him in advance of any winter storm and would take him wherever he needed to go until the roads were safe for travel.
4. Make sure they know what to do if the power goes out. Power outages can easily occur in winter and summer weather so it’s important that older adults know what to do and not do when the power is out. For example, I make sure that my dad has a good number of non-perishable food items and bottled water on hand so he’ll have plenty to eat if we can’t get to the store.
But my husband and I have stressed that he should never try to heat up those non-perishables using his camping stove. As this piece from Today.com explains, because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, no one should ever “burn charcoal or use gasoline- or propane-powered equipment inside [the] home.”
5. Move them to better weather. I like having my dad close by, so I’m not going to suggest he move out of town just yet. But a good friend of mine recently helped her aging parents move from Michigan to Phoenix, where she lives now. The Huffington Post notes that great places to grow old and happy include Denver, San Diego and Sarasota.
And of course, the Internet makes it easy enough to find out all you need to know about a potential new home. For example, this San Diego neighborhood guide provides helpful info for anyone considering moving to that sun-shiny city. Or if the mountains of Denver are more appealing, this relocation guide explains what it has to offer.
No matter what the weather, my dad’s safety is my No. 1 priority. I have so much more peace of mind knowing that we’ve all taken steps to make sure he’ll be safe when bad weather hits.
If you have an older parent or loved one, I highly recommend taking the time to put some bad weather precautions in place. You won’t regret it.