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Friday, April 6, 2012

100 Prep Tips for Seniors

Original Article

...because I haven't covered this topic in a while...

If you are a senior, going to be a senior, or help seniors (and I'm talking about older people, not high school kids), here's a bunch of tips to help you become better prepared/safer:

  1. Take your name off your mail box (put an address only on the box)
  2. Take your name off your voice mail (put a phone number only here; ie: you have reached 610-555...)
  3. If possible install a locking mailbox and deposit your outgoing mail in a locked box as well.
  4. Go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ and review your credit reports for free to make sure the information is correct (don't use those other supposedly free credit report websites)
  5. Inventory your home--either written or on video--and be sure to update the inventory annually.
  6. Write down your doctor's name and number, a list of your current medications and dosages, and a couple of emergency contacts with name and phone numbers then stick this paper on your refrigerator.
  7. If you need a DNR order, post this on your refrigerator or next to your bed too (ask your doctor for details)
  8. Exercise every single day (this will go a long way towards improving your health and balance)
  9. Volunteer (this will go a long way towards both keeping your mind and body active and warding off depression)
  10. Put together a "neighborhood watch" of sorts with other seniors in your neighborhood (I know seniors in many retirement communities who do this because they don't have family near by so if their neighbors note that they haven't been out in a while they go and check on them to make sure they haven't fallen or worse)
  11. Fix anything that could be a falling hazard in your house (loose stairs, throw rugs you can trip over, etc)
  12. Make sure your fire alarms work (this is a simple test that takes only seconds)
  13. Put a BOB together (EVERYONE should have one of these whether you are 1 or 100)
  14. If you must evacuate your house, throw all of your medications in a bag and take them with you (evacuation centers usually don't have any way to provide you medications if you forget yours)
  15. Try to get 90 day refills of all of your medications so you will always have extra on hand.
  16. Make sure your Will, Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, and Living Will have been recently updated.
  17. Make a list of each bill you pay each month.  Review this list and see if you really need to still be paying for some of the items (ie: if you are a single senior, don't have anyone dependant on your income, and have enough savings to cover your funeral, you probably don't need to be paying for life insurance; if you are still paying to rent a phone from your home phone carrier, go buy one--it will save you money)
  18. Make sure your home is safe (bushes don't obscure windows, doors have dead bolt locks, there is a peephole in your door, etc)
  19. Have an attorney and a CPA you can trust (and don't turn your financial/legal affairs over to the nice lady down the street; have a professional with a good track record for those things)
  20. Review your investments periodically with your CPA (things you invested in when you were younger may not be in your best interest as you advance in age)
  21. Take a senior driving class (besides giving you a discount on insurance, it will point out ways you can driver safer as you age)
  22. Put grab bars where you need them before you need them (by the bed, by the toilet and shower, etc)
  23. Stay off ladders! (Serious falls off ladders by people aged 45 and up are increasingly common)
  24. Cross at crosswalks! (Ditto for trying to sprint across the road between intersections)
  25. Carry a whistle and a flashlight on your key ring.
  26. Use nightlights around your home if you tend to get up in the middle of the night.
  27. Double check your medications before you take them (one lady I know has a sheet of photos of her medications, and prescribed dosage, so she can remember what it is she is taking)
  28. If you have new medical concerns, discuss them with your doctor (many people see signs of aging as, well, signs of aging instead of the important medical condition they can become.  Check to see if your new symptoms are something that need a medical evaluation)
  29. If you must smoke, do so only outside and extinguish your cigarettes fully before you go back inside (fire from unattended cigarettes are more common as you age)
  30. If you must drink, don't drive (actually that rule is for everyone)
  31. If you must drink, ask your doctor how to do so with the medications you are currently taking.
  32. Lock up your medications (this will keep them out of the hands of your grandchildren and visitors to your house)
  33. Lock up your firearms (ditto)
  34. If you have firearms that you intend to use for self defense, practice regularly.
  35. Have your chimney cleaned regularly if you use your fireplace or wood stove often.
  36. Have a CO2 detector installed in your home.
  37. Arrange your kitchen for safety (you may want to move items from high shelves down where you can easily reach them; you may want to move the microwave to a counter instead of over the stove)
  38. Write your name, address, and phone number down and leave it by the phone (this could be helpful to you--and your guests--in an emergency)
  39. Have your hearing and eyes checked annually; if corrections need to be made, do so immediately (ie: a new lens prescription or better hearing aids, etc)
  40. Hold a fire drill.  Yes I know this is more fun with the kids but if you are by yourself, you will need to know that your plan for evacuation is something you can actually pull off (ie: you may need to crawl out on the roof from the guest room instead of shimming straight down a rope from your second floor bedroom)
  41. Keep a charged fire extinguisher in the kitchen and in the garage if you do projects in your garage (wood working, furniture refinishing, etc)
  42. Put together a stellar first aid kit.
  43. Be sure that you have a stash of easy to cook foods (canned soup, crackers, etc) that you can easily prepare if you are ill and don't feel like cooking an entire meal.
  44. Make sure the areas you walk around your home in the evening (drive way and walk ways) are well lit.
  45. Make sure any electrical circuit near water (in the kitchen and bathrooms) have GFI switches on them.
  46. Set your hot water tank to 120 degrees (this will both save money on water heating and prevent scalding)
  47. Beware of extension cords, these can be both a tripping hazard and can overheat and cause a fire.
  48. Make sure you have easy access to phones in the places you are most likely to need them (by your chair in the living room, by your bed, etc)
  49. Move if necessary (this is a huge psychological thing but I have seen too many seniors try to hold onto homes that don't suit them--too much land to care for, all of the bedrooms are on the second floor, etc--when they probably should have moved to a home that is much better suited to their current needs)
  50. Make a list of community service agencies before you need them (211, Meals on Wheels program, Senior Center locations, Adult Services Agency, etc) 
  51. Keep a flashlight and a pair of shoes next to your bed.
  52. Make sure the shoes you wear are safe (tennis shoes are better than slippers or heels which can cause falls)
  53. Hang out with your friends (regular socialization makes people less prone to depression)
  54. Do things to keep your mind active (cross word puzzles, sudoku, learning new things, etc)
  55. Always have an emergency fund.
  56. Keep the majority of your money in a bank (and obviously never flash the money you do carry with you in public, that's just asking to be robbed)
  57. Get on the Do Not Call registry (https://www.donotcall.gov/)
  58. Beware of fraud whether via email, telemarketers, door to door sales people, etc (seniors are a huge target for scammers)
  59. Don't invite people into your house (if you are selling something on CraigsList, meet the buyer at a safe, neutral location; if someone comes to your home and asks to use your phone, take your cell phone outside for them to use; etc)
  60. If you need some sort of work done (to your car, to your house), take a younger, knowledgeable friend or family member with you.
  61. If you are prone to falls or heart attack, consider signing up for a Life Alert-type system.
  62. Get a pet (this has been shown to alleviate loneliness and depression and actually lead to a longer life for seniors; dogs are also a pretty good burglar deterrent)
  63. If you need medical aids, use them (some people want to put off using hearing aids, canes, walkers, etc as long as possible but this can create dangerous situations; better safe than sorry)
  64. Watch your step (try to avoid having slippery floors, stairs with slipper surfaces, bathtubs should have non-skid surfaces, etc)
  65. Each time you visit your doctor, take all of your prescriptions--or a written list of them--and have your doctor review them for drug interactions (don't forget to tell him about non prescription pills you take too)
  66. Review your driving.  If you have trouble seeing at night, don't drive at night.  If you have gotten into a number of fender benders, consider whether it is time to stop driving.
  67. Make your home look lived in--both day and night--to deter burglars.
  68. Check into transportation alternatives before you need them (the local bus system, the local senior "access" bus system, etc)
  69. Plan your own funeral (most people don't like to think about this but of the people I know who did plan their own funerals, the arrangements worked out much better than when grieving family members did this)
  70. If you have specific things you want to give to your loved ones, consider doing it before you pass--not only do you get to see them enjoying your things while you are still alive but it eliminates problems after you pass.
  71. Leave a key to your house with a trusted neighbor in case of emergency.
  72. Always keep your car and home locked up (windows too!) whether you are home or not.
  73. Make sure your home is easy to find if you have a medical emergency (house numbers should be clearly marked, etc)
  74. Learn how to pay bills and bank online and have your pension checks direct deposited to your bank account (this alleviates any problem you may have when paying with cash or sending payments through the mail)
  75. Protect your personal information (be careful who you give out your social security number, credit card number, or other personal information to; shred any documents with your personal information on them)
  76. Travel in groups.  Whether heading out to the theater or around the world, go with others to increase your personal safety.
  77. Be sure to stop the newspaper and hold your mail when you go on vacation so you don't tip off burglars that your home is unoccupied.
  78. Practice good internet safety (many senior centers have classes on this; don't put your vacation plans on FaceBook, don't respond back to scammy emails, don't click on pop up ads, etc)
  79. Walk around your house at night and be sure that people outside can't see into your house.
  80. Listen to your body when it comes to sports and other avocations (ie: if you like bowling, you may want to eventually switch to a lighter bowling ball; if you used to shoot a 10 gauge shotgun, you may want to switch to something lighter like a 12gauge or even a 24 gauge if you can still find one; if you usually play singles tennis, consider doubles, etc)
  81. If someone comes to your door that you don't recognize, ask to see ID (this can include everyone one from law enforcement to someone from the gas or cable company)
  82. Have a way to protect yourself when you are in your home (this may be via a firearm, a knife by your bedside, or even a loud air horn)
  83. If you become a victim of crime--any type of crime--report it immediately. Not only will this help you but it could prevent others from becoming a victim as well.
  84. If you see something odd, report it.  Seniors are usually home in the daytime and may notice a strange car lurking about or someone going in through the neighbor's window.
  85. How big is your purse? It shouldn't be a huge monstrosity that carries everything but the kitchen sink.  Carry a small purse with just the important things in order to stay safe (it makes you less of a target for thieves, means that if your purse is snatched you have less to lose, and it allows you to have full range of motion with your arms)
  86. Kid-proof your house before the grand kids come over (lock up medications and firearms, remove clutter, maybe even put the dog in a bedroom if it gets anxious around children)
  87. Connect with the outside world regularly--via email, phone calls, even HAM radio nets (it's a sad thing when someone is found dead in their home days or even YEARS after they passed because they weren't in regular communication with anyone who would know that they had gone missing)
  88. Stay home if it isn't safe to go out (icy roads, snowy walkways, a dust storm that makes allergies worse, etc)
  89. Always carry a cell phone with you (even if you don't like cell phones you can get a cheap one with a minimum of minutes to use in an emergency)
  90. Check out your clothes--are any of them tripping (like long house dresses) or fire (blouses with flowing sleeves near the stove) hazards?
  91. Study up on the latest in child safety if you will be taking care of the grand kids (ie: child seats and bike helmets are required these days, babies are now put to sleep on their backs, babies shouldn't share a bed with anyone, etc)
  92. Practice pet safety: always keep your pet's vaccines up to date, train your pet so they aren't a tripping hazard, when outside always have your pet on a leash, etc.
  93. Call 911 when necessary (a medical emergency, you hear a burglar, to do a welfare check on a neighbor) but don't become a "frequent flyer" (don't call them when a call to your doctor would be more appropriate)
  94. Practice car safety: keep the gas tank at least half full, keep your car in good working order, always check the back seat when you get into your car, don't park in secluded areas, etc.
  95. Practice financial safety: never co-sign a loan for anyone, never loan money to people if that isn't part of your financial plan, never give your ATM card and pin # to anyone, etc.
  96. If you, or a senior you know, are suffering from elder abuse, report it immediately to local authorities.
  97. Keep a reasonable stockpile of supplies you use often (toilet paper, adult diapers, food, toiletries, etc) in your home (we aren't talking "hoarders" here, just a reasonable supply so that if you can't get to the store for a week or two it won't be a big deal)
  98. Follow the same personal safety advice you would give your grand kids (don't walk alone, avoid alley ways and doorways, don't walk at night in rough areas, etc)
  99. Be sure you are eating well.  Sometimes when cooking for one instead of a family we slack off and either don't cook the most nutritious of food or skip meals; don't do this.
  100. Help other seniors.  If you have practiced all of these safety and preparedness tips, consider teaching them to other seniors (this type of information comes best from other seniors who have been there, done that, instead of from a 20 year old who has no clue; share what you learn so others can benefit as well)