Keeping Older Friends & Relatives Safe in a Storm

From “STEPS to Keep Your Elderly Relatives and Friends Safe During A Snow Storm,” by Jennifer Baukol and Shan Wade, STEPS Homecare, at

1. Find Someone to Keep an Eye Out
Ask a familiar friend, building maintenance employee and/or a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your loved one and check in with you every few hours on their status.   Give the contact all of your emergency contact information so they can reach you if the power goes out. Offer up front to reimburse them for any purchased items and supplies they bring over.  More importantly, inform the local police or fire department that you have an elderly relative at home alone who may need extra help in the event of a power shortage.

2. Stock the Pantry with an App
Make arrangements ahead of time or tonight with a local food delivery service – GrubHub, UberEats, Seamless – to deliver groceries and/or restaurant meals to their door. You can pay directly once you download the App for the food and delivery with your credit card.  Make sure they have enough bottled water too.  If you call a delivery service, offer to pay an extra fee to open difficult packaging or bottle tops that may be difficult. If your elderly relative receives meal assistance, place a call NOW to see if they have a contingency plan in place during inclement weather.

3. Pre-Arrange for Snow Shoveling and SaltingStorm season
Pre-arrange a local landscaping service or neighbor to help shovel walks and or driveways.  Local High Schools have career offices which list the names of local students looking for employment such as snow shoveling. Another option is a new online social media App called Nextdoor and you can post to look for local help in the zip code of you relative.  Again, offer to pay in advance for services or through a Money Paying App such as Venmo for direct pay.   Instruct the shovelers to use salt or gravel on the steps and outside walkways to avoid slippery conditions. Also inform them to pay careful attention to snow drifts which might clog furnace, water and heating vents around the home, in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. As a back-up, carbon monoxide and fire detectors should, of course, be positioned strategically within the home filled with new batteries.

4. Supply Flashlights and Check the Batteries BEFORE
Please make sure there are powerful LED flashlights in all rooms, NOT candles.  A head flashlight on a headband is very comforting for constant light and hand free. In the future, investigate installing an automatic generator that turns on and off automatically.

5. Can you Reach Them?  Can They Reach You?
Make sure both a large-button cell phone and land line telephone are available and accessible and that your they know how to keep the phone charged.  They should also have access to a solar or battery-operated radio, in case the power fails.

6. A Little Company
Find a local teenager or adult living within walking distance who would be willing to stop by for an hour or two during bad weather events to watch a movie or play a board game with your elder.

7. Better Safe Than Sorry 
Can they weather the storm alone?  If necessary, make arrangements to have someone stay with them in their home or move them somewhere comfortable and familiar.

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