Monday, January 17, 2011

TEOTWAWKI and aging

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
Social Interaction
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.   


  1. That is an exellent article. Your mom has provided us with valuable information pertaining to a segment of the population that is, even today, often overlooked and inadequately cared for.

    I will take these suggestions to heart since I have older loved ones and since I am rapidly reaching the elderly stage of life myself.

    Thank you, Mrs. Tome, for writing this informative piece. My preps in this area are sorely lacking, but that will soon change - thanks to you.

    NoCal Gal


  3. I have always loved older people and found them interesting and useful. My mother is old now, and very limited on mobility, but she knows such things, that even after so many years I still haven't heard all of. She grew up on a farm in Idaho during the depression.

    If nothing more, our elderly people are a throw back to a time when people were more modest and polite. If Mama speaks up and says that dress is naughty or that TV show is rude, then it is!

  4. Grace to both of you! (Wonderful pen name :>)


  5. This would also be appropriate to families of the handicapped who, too, rely on someone else for their care.

  6. This wonderful guest article prompted me to get to the pharmacy and buy a couple of things. So, this morning I bought one of those long-reach grabber things and also a seat for the shower/tub. At the hardware store, I bought a couple of handgrabs for the shower, to avoid slip-fall accidents. I'll install them myself while I'm still able to do things.

    This is a topic I intend to discuss with my older relatives, now, while they can give me their input.

    Thanks again, Enola Gay and her mother.

    NoCal Gal

  7. May I add that having a couple of pairs of crutches in the basement, to fit the size people you expect to have with you, is an easy and inexpensive prep. If you live in an area with ice storms, one can get ski poles or ice points which attach to a cane.

    Should a lot of walking be one of your scenarios, ski or walking poles can help with balance and tiredness. (Good for any age.)

    Blank diaries in which to write memoirs, family history and remembered skills, directions, & recipes, etc. would be useful.

    Reflective tape for stairs and walkways, inside or out, can be of great help.

    Great thread, thank you!

  8. How about a tape or digital recorder to record the history of their life in their own words and voice, also to help remember them by.
    Great article.


    My wife and I both have aging parents, and will soon be in their shoes ourselves so to speak.
    We both still go to them for knowledge and advice, and will be at somewhat of a loss when they are gone.

    Thank you for reminding folks that they are wells of great knowledge and wisdom, and pray that we never forget this fact.

  10. I am an 85 year old male with with a wife now in a nursing home for 8 years.

    My wife and I have discussed our fate in case of TSHTF and concluded that we are SOOL (S--- OUT OF LUCK).

    Most prepping sites never nmention the fate of the elderly or skirt around it.
    The answer is unpleasant, obvious and easy - we will be the first to die.

    As for those in homes like my wife - consider that she requires care 24 hours a day.

    She needs help in cleaning herself, using the toilet, changing clothes and transferring from wheel chair to bed.

    What does the staff do? As is the staff must change feces and urine soaked clothes, help some residents to the toilet and then clean them, to feed some residents through a catheter directly to the stomach, to constantly inspect them for pressure ulcers if the resident is bed written, to sooth and help them through altzenheimer and dementia emotional swings, to explain to them that their children are not visiting but will certainly come tomorrow and much more.

    The staff personnel are hard working and poorly paid. Most of them have to work 2 jobs to scrape by. And in my experience they provide sympathetic and loving care.

    But as you should expect the burn out rate is VERY high. Some only last a week, some last a month, and anyone staying for a year is considered an old timer .

    But the staff have lives outside of the home - they have their own families to provde for and take care for.

    I can not fault them if they do not work if there is a SHTF event.

    And I can not do it - my wife and pray that we don't hit the SOOL.

    We have children and grand children whom we love and think they love us.

    But they have family duties also. Since we are not in the same location it is not reasonable that they come and pick us up. And if they did how wold we be anything except a burden.

    My wife and I have chosen to follow the "ice flow" eskimo exit. We will (hopefully) float away to a final sleep.

    My family did a fair amount of camping. In so doing we got used to saving food and living away from the grid.

    It was similiar to prepping. So -- I began to prep some time ago. I now have 2 years supply of food (wheat and beans), several hundred cans (rotated), approximaely 400 gallons of water, clothes for the various weathers in our location and various hunting equuipment which will serve well as defense weapons (both long guns, hand guns, shotguns and adequate ammunition for all).

    My wife and I hope and think this prepping will some how help our children after we are gone.

    So we suggest that we elders meet our fates with out burdening our children.

    We take comfort that by our prepping we will be able to help our children after our death as we did in life.

    We hope for the best but are preparing for the worst.

  11. Found this very useful. The advice for exercise should be a clue to each of us, exercise shold be made a part of our daily routine...


  12. To the 85-year old male:
    I once read a quotation that said "Progress is NOT the sign of a contented people" and it has stuck with me.
    Unfortunately with "progress" has come lives filled with stuff - work, keeping up with the Jones, sports, focus on self instead of others, etc.(of which I was once chief) and too often we have lost the important things - service to God and our families, truth and integrity and taking responsibility. Families used to stay in the same area all of their lives. Now our society is mobile spreading families across the country.
    In a God first society families would take care of families and there are many today who still do but as we've put jobs and stuff ahead of our family nursing homes have filled (a blessing to many who have loved ones who need care not able to be done by the family member at home) but also at the cost of not being able to serve our families and gain experience from our parents.
    You have encouraged me to make a difference with my family.
    Yes, the elderly may go first in a TEOTWAWKI situation BUT hopefully while still here we can help our families with the skills we've honed over a lifetime of the challenges of adversity and the joy of challenges met. We can still do lots of things to help with chores and with teaching skills unknown in this generation.
    You, sir, are a vital part of life. May God richly bless you and your wife. Thank you for your example of preparedness in the midst of difficult circumstances.
    Actually, I don't believe you'll be SOOL, I believe you'll be serving others, helping them to know what to do when TSHTF and giving others a chance to survive.
    I like to imagine a country filled with folks like you!
    Grace Tome

  13. 85 year old Anon,

    Have you coordinated with your adult children? They need to know about your preparations and how valuable some of the pieces are. I just bought a 1000 bullets that are about 40 cents each. A person doing an estate clean-up who didn't know about guns/reloading might sell them at a garage sale for $10 if not informed of their cash value and importance in the reloading system. Same with the food prep's: label and date everything including estimated shelf life (for things like sugar and salt, nearly indefinite when kept dry/clean/vermin-free). Grandsons (some girls too!) can be very sentimental when it comes to Grandpa's old firearms, and will always remember you for passing along a nice weapon with some stories.

    Keep the will up to date. Do some estate planning with gifts. Put assets in trust if it makes sense for you. Do everything possible/reasonable to minimize the legal bite from taxes and lawyer fees.

    You are far from SOOL.


  14. 85-year-old Anonymous male, I admire your honest look at life. Yes, the elderly will be the first to die off in a SHTF scenario, just as they did crossing the country with their families in the Westward Movement. It's a real shame families don't live closer together so one generation can help another. Perhaps some day that lifestyle will be restored as hard times make it practical to do so.

    Like you, I do some prepping for my family members. I save nickels and ammo and other things that I think will be difficult to find in a few years. These things I pray will help them in their struggles to survive, even after I'm long dead and gone. The question I struggle with is, will they even recognized the value of these things? The younger generations don't seem to see the need to be self-reliant or that a gun is a tool and not always a weapon. They don't recognize the value of precious metals over fiat currency. They just don't see the potential problems, instead they "live for today" and expect others to figure out how to deal with tomorrow. These are my nieces and nephew and it is not their fault that they live this way, they were spoiled and I fear they will find out abruptly that being spoiled is not useful in hard times - quite the contrary.

    Anonymous 85yo male, I wish you and your wife well in these hard times. I wish I could give you hope. The only hope I see for you is to turn to Jesus for comfort. He is our only true "social security." May God bless you and your wife.

    NoCal Gal

  15. Yours is the first reference I've seen relating to TEOTWAWKI and the aging. However, our prob is slightly different. I'm a 70-yr-old woman, sole caregiver for a bed-bound 100% disabled husband (Vietnam-war traumatic brain injury). We live in Alaska (obvious severe weather challenges) and have no children near. No neighbors either. I'm not strong enough to have my own garden (several years of intermittent chemo), but I have been (and will continue as long as possible) to take advantage of the local Farmer's Market to get fruits and veggies in season and can/preserve them. Water and other essentials are being added to also. But I agree with 85yo male ... if SHTF (REALLY hits it), I'm totally vulnerable. I have a 12 ga. shotgun and know how to use it, but if push came to shove and I ever did have to use it, it would probably break a few brittle bones in the process. Both my husband and I have medical needs that occasionally cannot be ignored nor postponed. That is when we will have to bow to the inevitable. But until then, I plan on doing my best to protect my husband, my home, my lifestyle, my cat and me.