Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Today, the temperature in my parent's hometown hit 103 F and that was the "real" temperature, not the heat index temperature. It didn't feel like 103; it was 103 degrees! I was horrified to hear this from my Dad and even more horrified to have the news confirmed by listening to the local NPR station (via itunes) that broadcasts only a stone's throw away from my parent's house. Scary stuff. As I discussed in a previous post, seniors are more vulnerable to extreme heat. That being said, planning is everything. We can do support our parents, whether we live nearby or at a distance, by putting together a "heat wave survival kit," and developing a heat plan. This is particularly important in case of a power outage. Needless to say, extreme heat + power failure is a deadly combination.
What should go into a Heat Wave Kit?
- Bottled water
- A battery-powered fan
- Hand fans
- Easy to eat, non-perishable food, in case the power failure lasts a long time.
- Solar-powered, hand-cranked, or battery-operated radio to stay in touch with the news.
- Cell phone (although keeping one charged can be an issue.)
- A written plan for what to do during extreme heat.
The link below shows what one group is putting in it's "heat wave" kits.
Extreme Heat Plan
There is also a need for a plan, particularly if your parent(s) has cognitive issues or has health conditions or medications that might impair judgment. Below are some suggestions.
1. Remind your parent(s) to drink lots of water.
2. Stay inside or in the shade during the heat of the day. (You know the old saying, "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon-day sun.")
3. Stock the freezer with popsicles and easily prepared meals.
4. Stock the fridge with juice, water, and fresh fruit.
5. Make sure you parents know what to do if the power goes out.
6. Make sure your parent(s) know about nearby "cooling centers."
7. Check in with your parent(s) regularly.
8. If you don't live nearby, get a volunteer to check in or pay someone to do so.
9. Remind your parent(s) to phone their doctor, if they don't feel well.
10. Remind your parent(s) not to eat any perishable food from the fridge if the power has been off more than 24 hours.
Long distance tips
- Use vacation time to visit your parents and "heat proof" their home.
- Put together a "heat survival kit" minus the bottled water and mail it to your parents.
- Talk to them over the phone about developing a plan and send them one to put on the fridge.
- Phone at least once a day to make sure they're coping with the heat.
- Keep abreast of local weather conditions via itunes or internet weather news.
- If necessary, hire somone to check in every few days during an extended heat wave.
The best plan is a simplified list that can be put on the fridge or another key location. That way you can be as sure as possible that your parent(s) has the key information they need to cope during heat waves. Finally, it's important not only to cope with immediate heat waves, but to work to reduce carbon use to reduce the heat waves of the future. The key is not to rely upon air conditioning alone and, when air conditioning is necessary, use more energy-efficient air conditioners. Here are some ideas below.