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12 Summer Safety Tips for the Elderly

The summertime is a time of fun and relaxation for most people, but for seniors the heat and sun can be dangerous if the proper precautions aren't taken. Here are some great tips that the elderly, as well as their caregivers, can use to make sure they have a fun, safe summer.

Stay Hydrated
Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration than younger people because they lose their ability to conserve water as they age. They also can become less aware of their thirst and have difficulty adjusting to temperature changes. Remember to drink water often, and be sure to pack some for those long summer drives. Caregivers should make sure seniors are drinking sweat replacement products (that contain salt and potassium) to replace water they lose during the summer.

Talk to Your Doctor
Check with your medical team to make sure any medications you are on won't be affected by higher temperatures -- especially if you don't have air conditioning in your home. Some medications are less effective if stored at temperatures higher than room temperature (approximately 78 degrees Fahrenheit), and the last thing anyone wants is for a preventable medical condition to become aggravated due to high temperatures.

Keep Your Cool
Even small increases in temperature can shorten the life expectancy for seniors who are coping with chronic medical conditions. Shopping malls, movie theaters and libraries provide welcome, cool spaces if a senior’s own home isn’t air conditioned. They also afford a great opportunity to get out of the house and get some exercise, without the exhaustion of the heat. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to inquire if there are any programs to assist seniors with fewer resources to get air conditioners. Seniors are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of heat, as their bodies do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature. Some chronic medical conditions and prescription medications can impair the body’s ability to react efficiently to rising temperature.

Stay in Touch
High temperatures can be life-threatening, so communication plays an important role in ensuring the safety of the elderly. For seniors, you should let friends and family know if you'll be spending an extended period of time outdoors, even if you're only gardening.

Meet Your Neighbors
Get in touch with those who live in your neighborhood and learn a bit about them and their schedules. If you are elderly, see if a younger neighbor -- perhaps even one of their kids -- can come by and check on you occasionally to make sure everything is all right. The extra company and friendship that can result is a bonus!
 

Know Who to Call
Prepare a list of emergency phone numbers and place them in an easy to access area. This way, the right people can be called to help quickly preventing any further issues or preventing medical problems from getting worse.

Wear the Right Stuff
Everyone, including seniors, should dress for the weather. When it's warm out, some people find natural fabrics (such as cotton) to be cooler than synthetic fibers. Stock your summer wardrobe with light-colored and loose-fitting clothes to help feel cooler and more comfortable.

Protect Your Eyes
Vision loss can be common among the elderly, and too much exposure to the sun can irritate eyes and cause further damage. Wearing sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and preserve your vision.

Know the Risks of Hyperthermia
During the summer, be particularly cautious about abnormally high body temperatures -- a condition known as hyperthermia. Heat stroke is an advanced form of hyperthermia that can be life-threatening. Make sure to know the warning signs and get medical attention immediately if you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms:

  • Body temperature greater than 104 degrees
  • A change in behavior, such as acting confused, agitated or grouchy
  • Dry, flushed skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Heavy breathing or a rapid pulse
  • Not sweating, even if it's hot out
  • Fainting

Elderly individuals have a harder time knowing when they are dehydrated and their bodies have more difficulty regulating their temperatures. As a result, they are more prone to heat stroke.

If you (or an elderly loved one) start to feel any of these symptoms, ask for medical help and then get out of the heat, lie down and place ice packs on your body.

Rub on Sunscreen and Wear Hats
Everyone, young and old, should wear sunscreen when outdoors. The elderly especially need the extra sun protection to help keep them healthy. Caregivers, family and friends can help by gently reminding loved ones about applying sunscreen and helping to put it on when necessary. Hats are also a great idea, especially for those with light colored hair and those with only distant memories of a full head of hair.

Apply Bug Spray
The elderly is particularly prone to West Nile Virus and encephalitis. If you live in areas where there are a lot of mosquitoes and where West Nile Virus is present, and if you spend a lot of time outdoors (particularly at night), use mosquito repellent to help reduce the risk of getting bit by a mosquito carrying this virus.

Exercise Smart

If you enjoy outdoor activities such as walking or gardening, make sure to wear the proper clothing and protective gear. It is also important to keep track of time. Do not stay out for long periods and make sure to drink even more water than usual when exercising. Also consider getting outdoor exercise earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is not at its peak.

 

 

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BEFORE A FLOOD (When Flooding is Forecast)

Be alert.

  • Monitor your surroundings.
  • Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, local television and radio stations, or go to www.weather.gov.

If a flash flood warning is issued for your area: Climb to safety immediately.

  • Flash floods develop quickly. Do not wait until you see rising water.
  • Get out of low areas subject to flooding.
  • If driving, do not drive through flooded roadways!

Assemble disaster supplies:

  • Drinking water – Fill clean containers.
  • Food that requires no refrigeration or cooking.
  • Cash.
  • Medications and first aid supplies.
  • Clothing, toiletries.
  • Battery-powered radio.
  • Flashlights.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Important documents: insurance papers, medical records, bank account numbers.

Be prepared to evacuate.

  • Identify places to go.
  • Identify alternative travel routes that are not prone to flooding.
  • Plan what to do with your pets.
  • Fill your car’s gas tank.
  • If told to leave, do so quickly.

Review your Family Disaster Plan.

  • Discuss flood plans with your family.
  • Decide where you will meet if separated.
  • Designate a contact person who can be reached if family members get separated. Make sure every family member has the contact information.

Protect your property.

  • Move valuables and furniture to higher levels.
  • Move hazardous materials (such as paint, oil, pesticides, and cleaning supplies) to higher locations.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch them if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Bring outside possessions indoors or tie them down securely. This includes lawn furniture, garbage cans, and other movable objects.
  • Seal vents to basements to prevent flooding.

DURING A FLOOD

Be alert.

  • Monitor your surroundings.
  • Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, local television and radio stations, or go to www.weather.gov.

Don’t drive unless you have to. If you must drive, travel with care.

  • Make sure your vehicle has enough fuel.
  • Follow recommended routes. DO NOT sightsee.
  • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue or other emergency operations and put you at further risk.
  • Watch for washed out roads, earth slides, and downed trees or power lines.
  • Be especially cautious at night, when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • If the vehicle stalls, abandon it.
  • If water rises around your car, leave the vehicle immediately. Climb to higher ground as quickly as possible.

NEVER drive through flooded roadways. STOP! Turn Around Don’t Drown.

  • The roadbed may be washed out.
  • You can lose control of your vehicle in only a few inches of water.
  • Your car may float. Vehicles can be swept away by less than 2 feet of water.
  • Do not drive around a barricade. Turn around and go another way!

Get to high ground – Climb to safety!

  • Get out of low areas that may be subject to flooding.
  • Avoid already-flooded areas and do not attempt to cross flowing water.
  • Stay away from power lines and electrical wires.

Evacuate immediately, if you think you are at risk or are advised to do so!

  • Act quickly. Save yourself, not your belongings.
  • Move to a safe area before access is cut off by rising water.
  • Families should use only one vehicle to avoid getting separated and reduce traffic jams.
  • Shut off water, gas, and electrical services before leaving.
  • Secure your home: lock all doors and windows.
  • If directed to a specific location, go there.

Never try to walk or swim through flowing water.

  • If flowing water is above your ankles, STOP! Turn around and go another way.
  • If it is moving swiftly, water 6 inches deep can knock you off your feet.
  • Be aware that people have been swept away wading through flood waters.
  • NEVER allow children to play around high water, storm drains, creeks, or rivers.

Shut off the electricity at the circuit breakers. If someone falls in or is trapped in flood water:

  • Do not go after the victim!
  • Use a floatation device. If possible throw the victim something to help them float, such as a spare tire, large ball, or foam ice chest.
  • Call 911. Call for assistance and give the correct location information.

AFTER A FLOOD

Wait until it is safe to return.

  • Monitor NOAA Weather Radio or local television and radio stations.
  • Do not return to flooded areas until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
  • Do not visit disaster areas following a flood. Your presence may hamper urgent emergency response and rescue operations.

Travel with care.

  • Follow recommended routes. DO NOT sightsee.
  • Watch for washed out roads, earth slides, and downed trees or power lines.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.

If a building was flooded, check for safety before entering.

  • Do not enter a building if it is still flooded or surrounded by floodwater.
  • Check for structural damage. Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage.
  • Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter tank.
  • Do not enter a building that has flooded until local building officials have inspected it for safety.

Use extreme caution when entering buildings.

  • Wear sturdy shoes. The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.
  • Use ONLY battery-powered lighting. Flammable material may be present.
  • Look for fire hazards (such as damaged gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces).
  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. If possible turn off the gas at the outside main valve. Call the gas company.
  • Report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities.
  • Check for electrical system damage (sparks, broken or frayed wires, or the smell of burning insulation). Turn off the electricity at the main circuit breaker if you can reach it without stepping in water.
  • Examine walls, floors, doors, windows, and ceilings for risk of collapsing.
  • Watch out for animals that might have entered with the floodwaters.
  • Let the building air out to remove foul odors or escaping gas.

Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.

Get professional help.

  • Seek necessary medical care. Do not neglect minor wounds or illnesses.
  • Food, clothing, shelter, and first aid are available from the American Red Cross.
  • If the gas has been turned off for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
  • Have an electrician check the electrical system and appliances.
  • Wells should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking.

Your home is no longer a safe place.

  • Throw away medicine, food, or water that had contact with floodwaters (including canned goods).
  • If water is of questionable purity, boil drinking water for 10 minutes.
  • Restrict children from playing in flooded areas.
  • Keep windows and doors open for ventilation.
  • Pump out flooded basements gradually (removing about 1/3 of the water volume each day) to avoid structural damage.
  • Keep the power off until an electrician has inspected the system for safety. All electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet.
  • Service damaged sewage systems as soon as possible.

When making repairs, protect your property from future flood damage.

  • Follow local building codes.
  • Use flood-resistant materials and techniques.
  • Elevate electrical components above the potential flood height.
  • Elevate utilities (washer, dryer, furnace, and water heater) above the level of anticipated flooding.
  • Consider elevation of the entire structure.
  • Install a backflow valve in the sewer system.

IDENTITY THEFT

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The Office of Inspector General Social Security Administration (SSA) field questions every single day from the public about identity theft.

What should I do if someone has opened a credit account or a bank account in my name?

How do I file my tax return if someone else is using my Social Security number to work?

Can you put a fraud alert on my Social Security number?

First, we hope you are actively protecting your persona information. However, if your identity is stolen, what steps should you take to resolve the resulting issues?

When your Social Security number is compromised, it is natural to think the Social Security Administration will be a one-stop shop to resolve any and all identity, credit, and tax issues. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  

SSA can only correct SSN-reporting problems on their own records.  You should regularly review the details of your Social Security Statement to make sure it is correct—and now you can do that online here.  It’s easy to sign up, and you can review your lifetime earnings according to Social Security’s records. If your records don’t match SSA’s—or if you think someone else has used your SSN to work—the Agency can work with you to resolve that.

SSA also has a lot of information available online related to identity theft.  For example, you can read about SSA’s policy on issuing a different SSN here, and you can find out how to block electronic access to your Social Security records here.  You can even download and print the form to request an earnings record correction, here.

We should take a moment here to explain that we cannot speak for SSA—we’re only giving general advice to get you started.  If you think your earnings statement is incorrect, or if you want to obtain a replacement Social Security card, please call (800) 772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office. SSA representatives can help you resolve any discrepancies on your record and are trained to respond to your questions.

So that’s how SSA can help you.  But we know identity theft causes a lot of other problems, too, so here are some tips about where to go next.

To resolve tax issues, contact the Internal Revenue Service.  You can read about ways the IRS can help you here.

To resolve credit problems, contact the institution that approved the credit, as well as the major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Did you know that by law, you can receive one free copy of your credit report per year from each of these bureaus?  Go to www.annualcreditreport.com. 

You will have to work with each credit bureau, creditor, employer and government agency involved to remove incorrect information about you from their records. Privacy laws prevent many government agencies from sharing information about you with each other—which means there is no way to put a “fraud alert” on your SSN. 

If a monetary theft occurred, you may also want to file a police report with your local law enforcement agency.  And finally, the Federal Trade Commission is the national clearinghouse for identity theft allegations.  You can find a lot of information about identity theft and can file a complaint online at http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft/.  The FTC's Identity Theft Hotline number is: toll-free 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); TDD: 1-866-653-4261.

For more information, check out the OIG’s Identity Theft page. You are not alone—the FTC estimates 9 million people each year become victims of identity theft.  We hope you aren’t one of them, but if you are, this information should help.  Remember, don’t put any personal information in the comments section below, but feel free to discuss identity theft in general or give us feedback.

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By Audience

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Crime prevention and personal safety information for older Americans


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Resources for Crime Prevention Practitioners and the Brave Souls on the Front Line

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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