In Case of Emergency Safety Campaign Aims to Keep Elderly Safe in Cold
Just as we started to thaw a bit, Mother Nature will strike our area with another frigid cold blast. The elderly could find themselves in potentially life threatening situations. They may slip and fall, their car might break down, and they could get lost, confused or stranded – literally left out in the cold. That’s why Visiting Angels, one of the nation’s largest in-home senior care agencies with a location in our area, has launched the ICE a Cell Phone Safety Campaign to help seniors in case of emergency.
To ICE a cell phone, you load emergency contacts in seniors’ phones with the word ICE in front of the emergency contacts’ names, so when someone finds a senior in trouble they know who to call In Case of Emergency. Visiting Angels hopes this will become a universal emergency plan – a quick way for emergency responders to pick up a senior’s cell phone, and press the letter ‘I’ to find seniors’ emergency contacts.
“We urge families to ICE seniors’ phones, or come by our offices and we will ICE seniors’ phones for free,” says Larry Meigs, CEO of Visiting Angels. “We care for thousands of older Americans, and we constantly hear stories about how families need an emergency plan for seniors. One family told us their elderly loved one with dementia roamed five miles from home. When police tried to help they had no clue who to call. ICE contacts help responders know who to call in emergencies in this cold or at any time of year.”
How to ICE Seniors’ Cell Phones:
• Under ‘I’ in the cell phone contact list, load the In Case of Emergency contact names, beginning with the word ICE (ie: ICE_Heather).
• Make sure the emergency contact(s) agree to be an ICE partner.
• Include every phone number (home/cell/work) of the ICE partner.
• ICE partners should know the seniors’ medical conditions, doctors’ names and medications they’re taking.
• An ICE sticker can save a life. Place a Visiting Angels’ ICE Loaded sticker on seniors’ cell phones, so if someone finds a senior in trouble they know who to call in an emergency.
Cold Weather Caregivers
Along with ICE-ing seniors’ cell phones, Visiting Angels caregivers come to seniors’ homes to protect them from cold weather dangers. *Older Americans can’t feel cold weather shifts like younger people, and they may suffer from hypothermia without even knowing they’re in danger. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, more than half of all hypothermia-related deaths happen in people over age 65.
Cold Weather Caregivers help seniors with:
Outdoor Tasks – caregivers can do outdoor tasks for seniors, such as shovel snow and get the mail. People who are outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person's heart, according to the American Heart Association.
Proper Dressing – dress seniors in loose-fitting layers when heading outside. High winds, snow and rain can steal body heat. Wind is especially dangerous because it removes the layer of heated air from around your body. Layers of loose clothing trap air, creating a protective insulation.
Senior Cold Weather Safety Kits – caregivers can make sure seniors have these items on hand during the cold: emergency radio, essential medications, copies of prescriptions and medical records, extra set of car keys, first aid kit, flashlights and fresh batteries, ready-to-eat foods, stock of water to last three days, heavy-duty windshield ice scraper, snow shovel.
Proper Thermostat Setting - experts suggest to keep the thermostat at at least 65 degrees in cold weather months. Sometimes seniors forget to turn up the heat or will try to save money by not turning up the heat.
Insulation Check - caregivers can check doors and windows to make sure cold air is not getting inside seniors’ homes.
Blanket Check – be sure seniors are using extra blankets, not electric blankets, to sleep. Electric blankets are a known fire hazard.
Hypothermia Check – this condition occurs when the body can’t produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough. Hypothermia can be fatal. Most of these deaths are caused by heart failure.
o Symptoms of hypothermia include: mental confusion, slowed reactions, lack of coordination, shivering and sleepiness.
o The risk of developing hypothermia can increase when seniors have under-active thyroids, diabetes or heart disease, or take certain prescriptions. Some medications that are used to treat anxiety, depression or nausea, or even some over-the-counter cold remedies can increase an older person’s risk for hypothermia.
I’d love to set up interviews with local caregivers, senior care experts and possibly seniors and their families to talk about the importance of ICE-ing seniors’ cell phones and keeping seniors safe during cold weather.
*American Heart Association