emergency preparedness for seniors disasters

The predictions are in and most experts are expecting a quieter storm season on the Gulf Coast and Atlantic. However, experts warn, “that’s not a free pass for those along the coast, as history has proven”.

In our many years helping with emergency preparedness for seniors, we still find it common for many people not to take preparedness seriously. Unfortunately, elders and those with health problems suffer the most when not prepared. As an example, of the 1,330 people known to have perished as a result of Hurricane Katrina, 71% of those in Louisiana were older than 60 years, 47% were older than 75 years, and at least 68 died in nursing homes.

While we can’t control nature, the ways in which we prepare and react before, during and after disasters can have a significant impact on some aspects of how the disaster affects us. We’ve seen this on a larger level with government and groups of people seemingly making a bad situation much worse (e.g. Katrina), but this can be thought of on a individual level too.

We’ve broken down some of the key mistakes that can make a bad situation worse and provided links to the many tips and resources that can help your family mitigate some of the risks.

Mistake #1: missing key factors in emergency preparedness for seniors (or ignoring it all together)

  • Physical and logistical preparations are key. How well is the home reinforced? Is insurance up to date? What is the communication plan? What is the evacuation and staying put plan?
  • In addition to general preparedness, anyone with health issues or physical limitations needs to consider other things. How will the stress of the disaster affect the person? What plans need to be made in terms of care providers and the medical situation, whether staying put during the disaster or evacuating?
  • Don’t forget (not so) little details. Do you have an adequate supply of medications? Do you have needed equipment that won’t run without electricity?
  • What do you do when your older loved ones won’t heed your warnings? The best you can do is share information, provide concrete examples and offer assistance. You might also suggest a professional assessment. Unfortunately, when your loved ones refuse to take precautions they may be making a disaster not only for themselves but for you, with the accompanying worry and aftermath. Have an honest conversation with them about your concerns and feelings. Offer the professional assessment and planning assistance as a gift to them (and you!).

Mistake #2: failing to understand the limitations that you, and services you may count on, will face in the aftermath of natural disasters

  • It is vital for elders and those in frail health to realistically evaluate “the ability to self-preserve” i.e. manage without services, utilities, limited food and medical supplies and in the midst of damages and dangers. It is not only a dangerous time, it can be a VERY uncomfortable time. Many injuries and deaths related to storms occur during this aftermath of the following weeks.
  • Take into account caregiving challenges during/after the disaster. Think through potential challenges and solutions, as well as alternative arrangements. Read more about Alzheimer’s caregiving during natural disasters.

Contact us for help with emergency preparedness for seniors or other home care assistance.

Get more resources for emergency preparedness for seniors in Florida (including hurricane preparedness checklist, Pinellas and Pasco county key contacts, Red Cross information and a pet preparedness checklist).