Weathering Winter Storms as a Caregiver
Facing Winter Challenges
As arctic weather brings winter snow and ice, caregivers of the seriously ill face challenges. Being without electricity from downed power lines is not an option for patients who rely on oxygen machines. Closed roads mean caregivers are unable to get to the pharmacy for medicine or supplies.
Hospice teams, who visit patients in their homes, bringing both expertise and supplies, are well-versed in preparing for winter weather. They will bring extra medications and supplies before the storm hits to ensure their patients are never at risk. The team may even suggest a patient spend the duration of the storm in a hospice inpatient unit.
If the forecast calls for severe winter weather and you’re taking care of a seriously ill loved one, here are a few tips to help you weather the storm.
- Tell your power company if you or your loved one is oxygen-dependent to receive priority service or the loan of a generator.
- Have the phone numbers of the patient’s physician and hospice handy as well as the numbers of the local fire department and EMT.
- Make sure cell phones, laptops and tablets are fully charged in the event you cannot use your landline.
- Make sure you have flashlights with working batteries. Have extra batteries on hand.
- Make sure all smoke alarms have working batteries.
- If you use alternative heating such as kerosene, have a working carbon monoxide alarm.
- Keep lots of bottled water on hand for drinking and fill the bathtub with water for toilet flushing in case the power goes out.
- Have a battery-powered radio to stay up to date on weather conditions in your area.
- Fill your car’s tank with gas and maintain good winter tires.
If You Lose Power
- Keep the patient as warm as possible with extra clothing and blankets. Watch for shivering; this is the first sign the body is losing heat, which could mean hypothermia.
- Conserve heat by closing off all unused rooms.
- Place rolled up towels in cracks at the base of doors and windows.
Things to Remember
- If you must go outside, dress in layers and stay as dry as possible.
- When shoveling snow, avoid overexertion by taking frequent breaks.
- Drive only if absolutely necessary. If you must drive, stay on main roads and don’t travel alone.
- Many communities offer programs in winter to help seniors with snow removal and heating costs.
For more information on preparing for a winter emergencies, visit: