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'I was not prepared' | How the elderly population in Austin is managing the winter storm

These cold temperatures can be hard on anyone, but it can be especially difficult for the elderly population.

AUSTIN, Texas — Karen Steans woke up to find a fallen tree on her driveway. 

"We can't go anywhere. Our son and daughter-in-law stopped at the grocery store on their way here and so, they could get us groceries 'cause otherwise I don't know. We didn't have enough for all of us," Steans said. 

Steans and her husband consider themselves active people. But with icy roads and inclement weather, one thing they have been concerned about is their safety. For now, they are confined to their house and all its damages. 

Steans still remembers when a neighbor of hers fell and broke his hip. 

"You don't want to fall and break a bone at this age," Steans, who is 76, explained. 

The weather is not just difficult for the elderly population in Austin. It also presents challenges to caregivers like Blanca Cavazos who works for Visiting Angels. Cavazos works with her clients for 24 hours a day when temperatures drop below freezing. 

Cavazos buys groceries, takes care of her clients' meals and medications and serves as a companion. 

"Most of the time, I need to stay with my clients, maybe a week, and my family sometimes stays here," Cavazos said. "Two years ago, I don't know if you remember the snow, I stay[ed] with my client 7 days, no power, no gas, no water."

As Texas braves the rest of the winter, Cavazos is making one request for families who are seeking out devoted caregivers like herself. 

"The family with the client needs to stay more in touch. Sometimes, they find a caregiver and stay with my mother six days a week, day and night, they just come in and say 'Hi Mom, how are you' and leave," Cavazos said. 

These icy conditions leave Steans wanting to remind others to stay prepared for the unexpected. 

"Usually I'm really good about it, but not this time," Steans said. "We haven't really experienced ice before, not like this." 

KVUE also reached out to Laura Patiño, chief resilience officer for the City of Austin, about how the City is taking care of the elderly population during the extreme drop in temperature. She sent the following statement:

“Supporting our elderly neighbors, who are particularly vulnerable to frigid temperatures, has been a key focus of our winter weather response, and the City has been working hard, alongside our partner organizations, to address the needs of our older populations. Efforts include providing transportation for older people who are experiencing homelessness to help them access warming centers and Cold Weather Shelter while CapMetro’s services were suspended. We worked with EMS, Austin Public Health, Parks and Recreation, Austin Public Library, CapMetro, and others to address transport and sheltering needs for medically vulnerable elders. And we continue to work on resilience hub pilot programs and a comprehensive resilience plan to provide localized services within communities before, during and after a disaster.”

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