If you care for a loved one who is frail or has a chronic health condition, it is vital to plan for emergencies.  We are fortunate in hurricane-prone areas to be able to plan ahead in general for the season, as well as to have warning time of likely storms approaching.  Now is the time to be putting together potential plans for when a storm may hit, stocking up on supplies for the season and preparing a supply kit (as well as an “evacuation kit”).  See our our hurricane prep list (including a pet checklist).

Some important pointers when preparing for the safety of someone with special needs:

  • Find out what your home care provider’s plan is.  Discuss availability of staff, what you can expect, rates/arrangements.  If you are a current client of EasyLiving, Inc. home health care, we will be contacting you to complete your specific disaster plan and we welcome you to contact us with questions.
  • Get an emergency supply of medications.  Insurance companies make provisions so that you can get supplies ahead of time, just inquire as to how you go about doing so.  For certain medications, you may have to wait until a storm approaches and plan for items that require refrigeration or special care.  Here is some information for Medicare recipients about getting medications and care during emergencies.
  • Be realistic about a loved one’s ability to self-preserve in a storm situation at home alone.  Talk to your loved one about your concerns and discuss options for possible evacuation or alternative stays (at receiving care facilities, with a family friend, etc.).  For situations in which one spouse or family member is caregiver for another, also consider the challenges that may arise during/after a storm.  As long as a person is competent, he/she can refuse to evacuate, but continue to reinforce your concerns and offer alternatives (leading up to the season and then again as a potential storm approaches).
  • Consider how storm effects will impact your loved one in ways they may not affect a healthy adult.  Even a minor storm may cause electricity and other infrastructure to be impacted, and residents may have to manage without electric and water for some time.  You can imagine the impact this would have on someone, for example, with a respiratory ailment or incontinence.  Stress and lack of services can also make the time after a storm very difficult.  For a person with Alzheimer’s disease, the stress, lack of lights, and change in routine can cause great anxiety.
  • Special needs shelters are last-resort options for evacuating.  They do not have enough space to handle all the special needs residents in the area and are not equipped for caregiving.  If your loved one cannot manage on his/her own, a special needs shelter should be the backup plan only.
  • Make sure any elderly or disabled loved ones are registered with the county emergency services.  They should be aware of the person and his/her needs, even if this is only a backup plan.  Remember that emergency personnel may not be available as the storm nears, so if a person refuses to evacuate he or she cannot expect last minute assistance.
  • Take into account your loved one’s special needs in evacuation planning.  What equipment must be brought along?  How will the person do if stuck in a car in traffic for long periods?  (Always evacuate early when dealing with someone with special needs to better ensure safety and a smoother evacuation.)
  • Make a list of key contacts that you can include in your evacuation kit and/or for families at a distance (doctor, family members, healthcare providers, neighbors, etc.).  Have this information, along with basic medical history and list of medications.
  • If your loved one resides in a care facility, ask to review the disaster plan (as required by the state) and get contact information for inquiring about your loved one after the storm.  Facilities are required to maintain basic supplies, but you may wish to prepare a small emergency kit for your loved one that will provide extra comfort during a storm.  Facilities generally have emergency generators, but these are often used to power minimal lighting for safety and essential medical equipment only.

In our next blog post, we will offer some specific considerations and tips for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia.

EasyLiving, Inc. offers Pinellas County senior disaster preparedness assistance and hurricane planning help.  CONTACT US  today at 727-447-5845.