After the recent Hurricane Isaias left thousands without power, it is important to ask “What could happen to Grandma during the next blackout?” Rolling blackouts during extreme heat or cold can occur in New York, and major storms can sometimes leave people without power for days. While blackouts, especially major ones are few and far between, it is important to consider the ramifications that a blackout can have on your elderly loved one.

Light Sources During Blackouts

It can be hard to navigate the house during a blackout, but especially for elderly individuals with impaired vision. If the power goes out, they should have access to a flashlight or other battery-powered light source nearby. You should keep a flashlight in the bedroom, living room, and kitchen of their home, at least. Battery-powered camping lanterns can illuminate more of the room all at once. If your loved one lives in a multi-floored home, make sure to put flashlights on each floor. This will ensure that they can reach one without needing to use the stairs.

Avoiding Extreme Heat or Cold

Rolling blackouts can occur during extreme hot or cold temperatures, because of increased electricity use. However, this can leave your loved one vulnerable to extreme temperatures. Even just a few hours of no power can be fatal, as the elderly are more vulnerable to heatstroke or hypothermia. If needed, take them to your own home, or to a public location, such as a grocery store, that has power. Prepare them for winter with supplies such as warm blankets in the winter.

Blackouts and Food

Blackouts can make meals a challenge for the elderly too. Most foods will go bad after 4 hours when kept in the fridge during an outage, according to the FDA. Instruct them to keep the doors closed as much as possible. In many areas, Meals on Wheels and other food delivery services may halt services due to weather conditions. This can leave your loved one vulnerable when they need it most. It is important to have an emergency supply of canned and non-perishable foods in your loved one’s home. Be sure to choose options that provide good nutrition, while avoiding foods that may conflict with medications. Your loved one’s doctor should provide a list of foods to avoid if a medication requires them to make alterations to their diet.

Blackouts and Refrigerated Medications

If your loved one has refrigerated medications, it is important to help them develop a plan for this. Some insulin medications, for example, are meant to be stored in the fridge. A refrigerator can only stay cool for a few hours after the power goes out. Talk to your loved one’s physician for more information regarding the safe storage of refrigerated medications.

Phones for Emergencies

Depending on the severity of the blackout, there may be complications with communication. Teach your loved one to charge their phone often. If their phone has a removable battery pack, instruct them on how to replace it if needed, and keep a spare phone battery in their home.

Being There for Them

It is not always possible to reach your loved one during emergencies. You may not live in close enough proximity to your loved one to help ensure their safety during a blackout. A home health aide can be there for your loved one when you can’t. Your loved one’s caretaker can assist them in staying comfortable and secure during an emergency.

Safe Harbor Healthcare Services does not provide medical or healthcare advice via articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for medical advice.
Safe Harbor Healthcare Services has been providing excellent home care on Staten Island since 1967. Our services help the elderly and disabled live safely and independently; while giving their families the peace of mind they need. For more information, contact Safe Harbor by clicking here, or call us at (718)-979-6900.