Tips For The Elderly On Maintaining Independence When Isolated From Assistance

There will be times when adverse weather such as hurricanes, floods or snow storms will prevent the elderly from receiving help or getting out for help.  Preparedness is critical to maintaining independence.

Foods to Stock When there is No Electricity

Though standard advice favors canned goods for use when there is no power, canned goods are not the best solution as a manual can opener can be difficult for the elderly to use who may have arthritic hands or less than ideal manual dexterity.  Below are some suggestions for foods to have on hand that will supply needed protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber:

  • Fresh fruit that is ready to eat like bananas, berries, apricots, tomatoes
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, carrots
  • Cereal fortified with vitamins and not loaded with sugar
  • Bread (whole wheat, rye or pumpernickel)
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews)
  • Beans
  • Peanut Butter
  • Flax seeds and sesame seeds (contain high levels of calcium)
  • Packaged fortified milk that does not require refrigeration
  • Canned salmon with easy to open lid

No Water or Lack of Clean Water

When the electricity goes out, water may not be available or it may not be clean due to problems with sewage treatment plants functioning properly. Always try to have several gallons of bottled drinking water available. If gallons are too hard to handle, then get smaller containers of water and stock up more. Do not use tap water unless it is boiled for several minutes first.

Use hand sanitizer to clean hands. Disposable disinfectant wipes can be used to clean kitchen and other surfaces. Use a quick cleaning system for floors such as a SwifferR sweeper with cleaning pads; no water is required and the cleaning requires much less effort than a bucket and mop.  Stock up on waterless bathing products such as No RinseR to use instead of showering.

Lack of Heat

When the home lacks heat, it is important to take other measures to stay warm. Heat is lost through ones head and hands; therefore, wear gloves and a knit cap as well as layers of clothes to maintain body heat. Make sure to have plenty of extra blankets on hand. A wood stove or fireplace can be used for heat. Do not use kerosene heaters or any type of outdoor heating device indoors as there is a significant risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Space heaters are a significant source of fires and are not recommended.

Design of Home to Minimize Accidents

To maintain independence, falls that can lead to serious injury need to be avoided and the elderly can be quite susceptible to falls. There are ways of designing the home to minimize falls.  Easy-to-clean floors are the best; avoid carpet which is harder to keep clean and throw rugs which can be tripped over. Try to keep needed items within reach. Do not use chairs or other unstable items to try to reach items out of reach. Avoid clutter on the floors which can be tripped over. If light switches are not easy to reach upon entering a room, keep a night light on to avoid tripping over items in the dark while attempting to turn on a light.

The bathroom is a common source of falls. Step-in showers are preferable to tubs. Make sure there is a hand railing by the toilet and one on the wall in the shower/tub to use to steady oneself. Use bath mats or the appropriate tape on the floor of showers or tubs to prevent slips on watery surfaces.  Likewise, make sure to have a bath mat or towel on the floor of the bathroom to prevent falls from watery surfaces there.

Flashlights and First-Aid Kit

Always have at least one flashlight and extra batteries available. A well-stocked first-aid kit is

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also a must. Make sure to have several sizes of bandages and band-aids available. Alcohol wipes or a bottle of alcohol to clean wounds is important. For those with a stoma, make sure to have adequate supplies including extra pouch system supplies available.


There are ways the elderly can be prepared so that they do not feel helpless when outside help is not readily available. A little advanced planning can make all the difference in the world. We can’t prepare for unexpected events, we can however prepare for tackling them. It’s essential to stay hydrated and nourished so we should always have steady supplies of food and water. Maintaining body temperature is also keen be sure to keep that in mind.

Guest post by contributing author, Richard O. Richard is a freelance writer and guest blogger. To find out more about the issues that elder people might face, such as ostomy, visit SecuriCare Medical’s website. SecuriCare Medical is a one-stop service for all your stoma care and continence needs.

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