Home care in La Grange, IL

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Why Do Seniors Need a Shelter in Place Plan?

March 22nd, 2019

By: Linda Kunicki

Elderly Americans are twice as likely to suffer serious injury or death in the event of a house fire. Usually this is because they are dealing with physical or cognitive challenges that prevent them from being alerted early and then escaping the home. Even if a family caregiver or elder care provider is with the aging adult, they may not be able to evacuate the senior if they are bedridden or the evacuation route can no longer accommodate a wheelchair. That’s why it’s important for seniors to have a shelter in place plan and for family caregivers and elder care providers to know all about it.

What is Sheltering in Place?

For people who are unable to evacuate in an emergency, officials recommend sheltering in place. This means staying as safe and secure as possible within the building until help arrives. Elderly adults who may e bedridden or wheelchair-bound may not have the option to evacuate as others might. It’s important to have a plan in place so they can stay as safe as possible where they are.

If they are alone, elderly adults can take steps to isolate themselves from danger and also signal to rescuers where they are. Even a family caregiver or elder care provider with them can participate in the shelter in place and await rescue. Shelter in place plans can also work for several other emergency situations, such as a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or flood.

How Seniors Should Shelter in Place

When it comes to a shelter in place plan, family caregivers can apply similar steps to just about any emergency. The key to success is to have the plan already in place so that everyone knows just what to do and doesn’t panic or make bad decisions. Because house fires are the most common, the steps outlined here will particularly address that.

The first step in any emergency situation is to contact emergency services by calling 911 on a land line or cell phone. The aging adults or their elder care providers should be able to recite the address of the home as well as where they are located within the structure to the dispatcher.

The next step is to secure the door by closing it tightly as it can take up to 10 minutes for a fire to burn through a standard interior door. In addition, someone needs to take a minute to block the bottom crack from allowing smoke in. Seniors can roll up a towel or blanket and push it into the opening, sealing it as best they can.

Once the door is secure, it’s safe to open the window. If the door were left open, the influx of oxygen might cause the fire and smoke to fill the room. However, it’s fine when the door is closed. If possible, the aging adult should position themselves near the window and signal out to potential rescuers. Ideas include a flashlight, flag, or something to bang on. Once rescuers are on the scene, they can instruct the elderly adult and their elder care provider on what to do next.