Surviving a Blizzard Trapped In Your Car

Nemo

It seems that the entire country has been hit with one blizzard after another and we’re only half-way through February.  While staying off the roads during a storm is the best idea, sometimes storms hit so quickly that people are literally trapped for hours if not days in their car.

Being prepared, staying calm and having a plan can make all the difference.

Stay with your car

You might be tempted to walk and find help but unless there is a building that you know is occupied within your sight, don’t leave your car.  When help arrives it will add more time to your rescue if you’re not with your car.  If you don’t have flares to set, tie a bright piece of cloth on your car to alert anyone passing by.  Be sure to bundle up with extra layers, especially on your toes and fingers, and try to move around any way you can – clapping your hands, moving your legs, etc.

Pack supplies

If you live in a blizzard-prone area, always keep your car stocked with emergency items including flares, a shovel, extra blankets and socks, a pocket knife, a hand crank radio, an extra cell phone, a bottle or canteen to hold water, matches or a lighter and some candles (with a tin can to burn the candles in), dried snack including jerky, candy and peanut butter crackers and a First Aid kit.  If you have a baby, include extra formula and diapers.

Avoid CO poisoning

While you might want to keep the car running for heat, only do so about 10 minutes every hour to avoid running out of gas.  Make sure there is no snow blocking the tail pipe and keep one window open a crack to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.  Be sure the window is opposite from the way the wind is blowing to avoid snow blowing into the car.

Stay hydrated and energized

When it’s cold you tend to drink less but you can’t risk getting dehydrated.  Don’t eat snow as your body will still have to work to melt it.  Rather pack some into the canteen or bottle you have in your supplies and slowly let it melt.  Eat candy and protein bars to keep your energy up.

Before ever heading out for a trip let a family member or friend know where you are going, the route you are taking and who’s going with you.  If you don’t arrive at your destination they can immediately give the information to emergency personnel who are searching for you.

 

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Medicare coverage extended regardless of beneficiary’s condition “plateauing”

Settlement delays nursing home care, allowing seniors to age in place

On January 24th, the Settlement in the Medicare Improvement Standard case was approved which guarantees that people with chronic conditions will continue to receive Medicare coverage regardless of whether their condition improves.  This is a major win for individuals with health problems and disabilities such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and paralysis due to stroke and spinal cord injuries who in the past have been denied Medicare coverage because they had reached a plateau in their progress.  Now, beneficiaries will be able to continue to receive skilled nursing facility care, home health care or out-patient therapy (physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy) for as long as they need it.  This is also a win for seniors who, without continued home health care or out-patient therapy would otherwise be forced into nursing home care and prevented from their goal of aging in place.    Now, seniors getting skilled services at home under a doctor’s order will be allowed to continue receiving this coverage indefinitely.

A recent NY Times blog points out that Federal officials say that the settlement is not a change in existing Medicare coverage rules but most beneficiaries as well as providers are not aware of this and it’s not well publicized.  Medicare officials now have until next January to notify health care providers but there’s no requirement to inform patients.

In order to help patients, the Center for Medicare Advocacy offers free “self-help” packets explaining how to challenge a denial of coverage this is based on lack of improvement.  Judith Stein, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case and the executive director for the Center also encourages patients to bring a copy of the settlement to their next physical therapy appointment to show their provider if they’re worried about losing Medicare coverage.

Additionally, people who feel they were denied Medicare coverage for skilled nursing or therapy services in a skilled nursing facility, at home or as outpatients due to lack of progress after January 18,2011, when the lawsuit was first filed, can request a review of their case.

I strongly urge anyone with a chronic health issue or disability to visit the Center for Medicare Advocacy site and view the Frequently Asked Questions to understand your rights for continuing Medicare benefits.

Safety for Seniors and People with Alzheimer’s During a Blizzard

Isolation can be Deadly

As Nemo roared up the East Coast, I’m thought a great deal about the number of elderly people who are living independently, or aging in place.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy it became apparent that there were many seniors living alone that local senior service agencies were completely unaware of.

Many of these people have mobility and cognitive issues that make living alone dangerous in the best of circumstances, let alone when we are facing a major storm such as this.  According to the U.S. Census, more than half of women, age 85 and older, live alone. Even more disturbing, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that one out of every seven Americans with Alzheimer’s lives alone.

My mom and dad (who suffers from Alzheimer’s) live about 30 minutes away from me.   I made sure they had informed the police department that my father had Alzheimer’s and, in the event of an emergency, they should be at the top of the list to receive help.  I also made sure they had contacted someone to plow their driveway (otherwise my mother would have most certainly tried to snow blow it herself!)  I reminded them to fill their car with gas, get extra food in the house and make sure they had extra batteries.  They are good friends with their neighbor who always takes the time to check in after a major storm.

What is amazing to me is how many elderly people don’t have family willing to look in on them.  They are the ones I truly worry about.

If you have an elderly neighbor or you want to be sure your parents are safe, here are a few other things to point out:

- Remind them to be careful of where they position a space heater

- Keep a File of Life posted on the refrigerator so emergency responders are aware of any medications or physical issues the person might have

- Make sure they have a phone that can be pre-programmed with emergency numbers.

The VTech CareLine Home Safety Telephone System has large buttons and four buttons that can be pre-programmed and hold photos for easier dialing

- Get a refill on their prescriptions if they’re running low in case they can’t get out for several days

- Make sure they have a well stocked emergency kit with a lantern, batteries, non-perishable food and a battery operated radio.