So far in 2017, the United States has experienced major hurricanes, dozens of wildfires, widespread droughts, and multiple earthquakes. The importance of being well prepared has never been greater, especially for senior residents, who often require certain considerations such as medication or oxygen.
Seniors are especially vulnerable during natural disasters, that's why emergency preparedness for older adults increases their safety during a natural disaster. Seniors who need care are especially vulnerable during an emergency because they can’t easily get around and often have special healthcare needs.
Creating an emergency kit and plan takes some effort, but it can mean the difference between developing a serious health issue or surviving the disaster unharmed.
We share 4 important steps you can use to help your older adult prepare for the next natural disaster.
1. Build an emergency kit
It’s critical that your older adult has the food, water, medicine, and supplies they’ll need to survive an extended power or water outage.
Important Survival Basics
- One gallon of clean drinking water per person, per day. Dehydration is one of the most dangerous aspects of the post-disaster recovery process.
- At least one full week of food that requires no refrigeration and won’t go bad due to exposure.
- Batteries and flashlights to help alleviate dangerous low-light conditions at night without power.
- A well-stocked first aid kit.
- Sanitary wipes in case you have no access to clean water for bathing.
- A full gas tank, disasters commonly take out power for gas stations as well, resulting in a fuel storage that can last days or even weeks.
- Clean and dry clothing to last for at least a full week.
- All necessary medication with a minimum of one full weeks’ worth of extra medication on hand.
- A simple generator if your medication requires refrigeration to ensure that it doesn’t go bad while the power is out. If a generator isn’t an option you should speak with neighbors or your pharmacist for options.
- Prepare medical supplies that are specific to any conditions you may suffer from. It is recommended that you place all of these in a single medical kit.
Keep copies of important information like:
- A list of prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and orders for medical equipment – including dosage, treatment, and allergy information
- Medical insurance and Medicare or Medicaid cards
- Contact information for doctors, family, friends, hired caregivers, and other people in their support network
- Write down any emergency contact numbers, you likely won’t be able to charge your cell phone so you may need them on hand.
- Withdraw enough cash to pay for several meals, groceries, or gas. Chances are that any store that reopens won’t have immediate use of their card machines.
Additional Steps to Take
- *Important* If you use oxygen, ensure that the power company is aware before any disaster hits if possible, they will strive to restore your power quickly as an emergency priority.
- Ensure that any pets have excess food and clean water to last at least a week.
- Freeze water bottles and leave them in your freezer to help food stand longer.
- Fill your washing machine with ice to help perishables last up to a week without power. Bonus, the water will drain directly out of your washing machine, so no cleanup.
- Plan ahead for refrigerated medications like insulin for diabetes – talk with the pharmacist or doctor about emergency options
- Extra batteries for devices like hearing aids or wheelchairs
- An extra pair of eyeglasses
- Catheters, feeding tube, or ostomy supplies, etc.
2. Form a support network
You might not always be nearby to help your older adult when disaster strikes. That’s why it’s essential to create a support network of trusted neighbors, relatives, and friends who could step in during an emergency.
Familiarize them with your older adult’s needs. Make sure everyone knows which medications, supplies, and medical devices are important, where they’re kept, and how to use them. Also, give them a copy of the emergency plan and access to your senior’s residence.
3. Create an emergency plan
Depending on the type of disaster, it could be safer to either evacuate or shelter in place. Nature is unpredictable, so prepare one plan for sheltering in place and another for evacuating.
Written plans are best for handing out and reviewing with everyone in your senior’s support network. That way everyone will be clear on what to do and where to go. And if you’re separated, you’ll know where to find your older adult.
If they need routine treatments in a clinic or hospital (like dialysis), talk to the service provider about what to do and where to go for back-up care during an emergency. Be sure to include that information in the emergency plan.
4. Make sure federal benefits payments are accessible and secure
Seniors who depend on Social Security or other federal benefits can run into trouble if they rely on mailed payments.
During emergencies or evacuations, mail services can be interrupted for days or weeks. Even worse, checks could get stolen. To prevent financial problems and fraud, make sure your older adult is receiving their benefits electronically.
Important: Seniors who are still getting a paper check for Social Security or other federal benefit payments are out of compliance with the law.
How to switch to electronic benefits payments:
- Choose to get payments either by direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or to a Direct Express® prepaid debit card account. If your older adult has a bank account, direct deposit is the best option.
- Sign up for direct deposit to a bank account by contacting the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at (800) 333-1795, signing up for direct deposit online (select the direct deposit option), or signing up through your local bank or credit union.
- Sign up for the Direct Express® card by contacting the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at (800) 333-1795.
If you or your loved one could use help preparing a emergency response kit, or feeling safe and secure in your home, we can help! American In-Home Care always refers qualified, screened, and insured care providers that are compassionate and ready to help with services like transportation, health data monitoring, meal preparation, and support with activities of daily living. Contact us at 1-844-505-0004 to schedule your free in-home consultation to discuss which care options are right for you and your family.