Lights Out! Power Outages and the Elderly
We have no electricity today. The power’s turned off for construction in the area. Power outages upset the elderly, particularly sudden, nighttime outages. Advance knowledge makes it is easier, but not easy.
Routine is one of the ways we keep elders calm. Without electricity much of their routine is lost. Think about it–the lights go out, back-up lights come on but they aren’t as bright, how will they get to the bathroom in the dark? Most seniors have some visual impairment made worse by darkness. If the elderly fall, it is life altering if not life ending. You and I use ambient light to find our way in the dark. If we stumble, we keep going. Walking in the dark for elderly people is dangerous and frightening. We keep flashlights near my parent’s bed but if they wake up disoriented, can they find them? Seniors use the bathroom often but our well-pump doesn’t work without electricity. That means no electricity and no water. We cook meals differently, if we cook at all. Their morning bathing routine is out. It throws their whole schedule off.
We think of it as an inconvenience but even as I write this my parents are panicking. Their lift chairs are electric. They need that extra boost out of the chair. Their primary entertainment, TV, is off. They have battery back-up for their radio but we don’t get great reception here. Their caregiver can’t get in because we have an electric gate. We do have a generator but we’re limited to running only the essentials. I don’t know how to run the generator, so I’m dependent on my husband being here. (I really don’t want to learn but I will if I have to.) My dad, with his background in electric engineering wants to help but failing vision and balance problems make it unsafe for him to set up a generator in the dark in an emergency. The elderly have lost control of so many things in their lives. Anything that adds to that feeling of being out of control, overwhelms them.
This power outage is in the summertime, in daylight hours, but when it happens during winter storms, the challenge is on. We can’t run the generator non-stop for power outages lasting two or three days. We’ve had to keep my parents in bed all day a time or two, just to keep them warm. Extreme heat or cold is deadly for the elderly and frail. For those seniors who need oxygen, rechargeable wheelchairs and other medical devices, the need for power is even more critical.
We’ll manage this event and all will be well but if your power goes out, think of the seniors in your area. If you care for seniors not living with you, or have elderly neighbors, check on them during power outages. You might save someone’s life.
P.S. Don’t use candles. It made a pretty picture for this blog but candles and the elderly pose too great a fire risk. Use a flashlight or an electric lantern. https://www.amazon.com/Portable-resistant-emergencies-hurricanes-Batteries/dp/B01FNFLHWG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499845851&sr=8-1&keywords=led+emergency+lanterns