Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thunder and Lightning

As parts of the country suffer through the heat without power my thoughts go to those who need it most-the elderly and disabled.  We, who are in pretty good shape, are uncomfortable and dismayed by this week's power outages, by food loss, by sleepless, sweltering nights, but at least our health helps get us through the night.

Thunder storms have always attracted me.  I loved seeing the dark clouds roll in, counting the time between thunder and lightning, watching those bolts of electricity shoot from the sky. The majesty and power hidden within those clouds kept me spellbound.  This summer has presented a different sort of challenge.  The storms seem to go on longer, the thunder louder, the lightning more intense and, based on the fallen branches, angrier.

Now as a caregiver, my blood pressure goes up a few notches as the clouds begin to march over the neighborhood.  A loss of power requires action on my part.  My Dad lies on a air mattress.  One that continually circulates air to help prevent bed sores and other skin problems common to a bed bound patient.  Should we lose power, I must turn him and insert something called a "waffle mattress" under him.  The waffle mattress must be manually inflated using a hand pump.  All this needs to occur before the other mattress deflates, which would indeed leave Dad resting on a hard slab.

Additionally, there's the matter of oxygen.  Dad uses a powered oxygen compressor.  Should nature knock our lights out, Dad must be switched to an oxygen cylinder or tank for the duration of the outage.  Not too big a task, but not one I look forward to actually doing.

During the duration of the outage, matters of hydration are high priority for Mom and Dad.  They become annoyed when I'm touting fluids on a good day.  Now "the daughter" roams the halls with a pitcher full of water or lemonade coaxing them to drink more.  In their  minds, drinking more results in increased bathroom time and swimming through the "Hazy Hot and Humids." just doesn't cut it.  The heat slows them down, way down.  Lack of fluid causes confusion. 

It's during these extreme conditions, I worry about those who don't have anyone to care for them.  Who are they?  Can a neighbor assist?  Are they locked up in a 100 degree apartment too worn out from the heat to get a glass of water?  Where is their help?   Could I be their help?  Could you be their help?

All it takes to know may be a small measure of awareness.  Does an elderly or disabled person live in your neighborhood?  Have you seen them since the power outage?  Did you notice an air conditioner sticking out of their window?  Is it on?  Do folks come and go from their home? 

I realize it can be hard to just knock on someone's door with a pitcher of lemonade or water in your hands, but if you're a born extrovert, it couldn't hurt.  If you don't dare knock on a stranger's door, then by all means call your local fire department or elderly affairs board to discuss next steps.  The point being do something. Who knows?  You just might save a life and it doesn't get more powerful than that.

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