Recently I asked my mom, a former nursing home administrator, to write a piece on caring for (or becoming) the elderly during a TEOTWAWKi situation. I have never seen much written on this subject and it needs to be addressed. All of us have people we care about that fall into that "elderly" category - or, we may even be closing in on "elderly" ourselves.
This is what she came up with, and I thought it was incredibly useful! You will have to let me know what you think.
The Aging Population & TEOTWAWKI
By Grace Tome
Often left out of emergency planning is planning for aging, either for ourselves, a family member or a friend. As we age there are many changes physically as well as in our lifestyle. Our muscles weaken and our flexibility lessens. Even the muscles in the throat weaken so swallowing becomes difficult. Our balance is not as sure as it once was. Many people develop arthritis that worsens to the point dexterity declines. Skin thins, bruising and skin tears appear. Circulation decreases affecting body temperature so it is hard to keep warm. Breathing can become an effort. It becomes more difficult to remember some things and it is not unusual to repeat yourself. For the most part as we age we don’t exercise as much as we did when we had families to care for – the lack of exercise is a threat to digestion and also one factor in muscle weakness. Hearing declines. Some folks rely on multiple medications to treat illness. On the positive side, older people have gathered a lifetime of experience and wisdom. Many have faced hardship and disaster and have prevailed so there is less “panic mode” and more “we can do this”. They have experienced the power and bounty of God firsthand and have learned to lean on Him and become prayer warriors.
What are some practical things that can be done to prepare for the aging process during TEOTWAWKI?
Weakness and Balance
Ø Have a walker available – most walkers fold for storage and can be put under a bed just in case they’re needed
Ø Purchase or make a cane – again easy to store and a stout stick can make a great walking stick
Ø If your climate is cold and snowy in the winter time, purchase TRAX, a rubber and cable and sometimes spikes device that slips over the bottom of shoes – this will eliminate slipping on ice
Ø Keep the area free of clutter to remove the chance of tripping
Ø Place sturdy furniture along pathways so there is something to use as handholds as the person walks from place to place
Ø Encourage exercise to maintain muscle tone
Ø Put water, etc. into smaller containers so it is easier to lift
Swallowing and Teeth
Ø Purchase a baby food grinder (preferably non-electric although a blender will work when power is available) to puree food to an easier to swallow texture
Ø If dentures are used, ensure there is a supply of cleaner, denture adhesive and some kind of non-toxic glue for denture repair
Ø Ensure several items of warm clothing is available that can be layered i.e. several sweaters, sweatshirts, sweatpants, etc.
Ø Expect to keep the house warmer than is comfortable for young people. An aging person will be chilly when everyone else is hot
Ø Encourage exercise – helping with chores - for example, bringing firewood in using a canvas sling is excellent. It helps run the household and frees other workers for heavier chores even if just two or three pieces of wood are carried at a time
Ø Purchase rubber finger caps at an office supply store to make turning pages easier
Ø Find a Reacher: most drug stores carry these devices that enable people to put their socks on or pick up something dropped on the floor without bending and risking a fall
Ø Make sure that shoes and boots are available that can just be slipped on the feet and don’t require shoelaces to tie or buckles to buckle
Ø Clothing that does not require buttons, zippers and hooks is wonderful – again, sweatshirts and sweatpants or skirts with elastic waists work easily
Ø If someone takes prescription medication including insulin, secure a stockpile of as much as you are able. Talk with your physician about obtaining at least a year’s supply.
Ø Check with Canadian pharmacies – some medication that requires a prescription in the US may not require a prescription through those pharmacies
Ø Pay attention to prescribed dosages and give only those dosages
Ø Obtain a Merck manual to check contraindicated medications i.e. which should not be taken in conjunction with which others
Breathing and Sleeping
Ø Many older people sleep much better in a recliner, that is, in a sitting position with their legs extended
Ø If a recliner is unavailable you can accomplish the same thing using a straight back chair inverted on a bed. Turn the back of the chair upside down on the bed with the top of the back toward the person and pad the back of the chair with a blanket and pillows
Ø Encourage exercise to expand lungs
Ø Recommended supply: Hot Water Bottle with enema attachment
Ø Recommended medications: Laxatives and Anti-Diarrhea
Ø Mild foods – not spicy
Ø Encourage exercise
Hearing and Sight
Ø Procure medical tools and wax removal wash to remove ear wax
Ø Look directly at the person and speak clearly
Ø Have magnifying glasses available
Ø If glasses are worn, have at least one spare pair on hand
Ø Check hearing and sight and follow above
Ø If person unable to talk, make a book of pictures (illustrating toilet, bed, food, drink, happy, sad, clothing, sweater, etc.) so a person can point to what is wanted/needed.
Ø Have a small dry eraser board with marker on hand in order to communicate in writing
Ø Listen - stories can repeated many times – enjoy them instead of saying “you told me that already”
Ø Thins as we age so skin needs more moisture. Keep lots of lotion on hand and lotion soap like Dove or Oil of Olay
Ø Keep skin covered i.e. long sleeves, long pants, socks, etc. so when an arm or leg is bumped the skin won’t tear or bruise as much.
Ø Have steri-strips on hand to butterfly skin tears
In many cultures the elders are revered as a source of knowledge. Take problems to them and ask for advice. Older people can do many chores: cooking, cleaning, repairs, child care, loading magazines and tell you “how to” in many areas. It is so important to be needed and a working part of the family.