It’s hard to describe what the devastation from Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria means for residents of the affected areas. Unfortunately, some of the most vulnerable in all of these natural disasters have been the elderly. However, this issue isn’t new. In fact, 70% of those who died in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were older adults whom refused or were unable to evacuate. It leaves us asking, why does this happen, and how can we be better prepared to prevent situations like this in the future?
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of older adults have some kind of functional limitation, and a 2005 Harris poll found that 13 million people aged 50 and older said they would need help to evacuate during a disaster, with half of those saying they would need help from someone outside their household. When seniors lack the support system and resources to manage a disaster, it is up to the rest of us to step in and help. To keep planning from seeming overwhelming, experts recommend that older adults focus on preparing for disaster that are more likely to occur in their area. Here are a few preparations you can make that apply to almost any type of disaster…
- Develop a communication plan to follow up on the whereabouts and well-being of the older adults in your life, and come up with a strategy to keep them informed before, during and after the disaster. Be sure to check out helpful tech, like Zello, a free walkie-talkie app that can be used on your smartphone, tablet or PC in the event that mobile and phone communications are interrupted. A NOAA Weather Radio can also be a helpful resource.
- If you or your loved one undergo routine treatments at a hospital or clinic, like dialysis or physical therapies, contact the facility to find out their emergency plans and work with them to identify back-up service providers. Be sure to refill any prescriptions and fully charge/ready all assistive devices.
- Stock up on ready-to-eat food, bottled water, and flashlights & batteries, and first aid supplies. Even under the best circumstances it takes time for emergency responders to organize and reach those who need assistance. So, stock enough supplies last a week.
- Keep important documents (social security card, Medicare/Medicaid card, insurance card, etc.) in a ziplock bag or watertight container. Older adults should also have a personalized emergency plan listing where they can go in the event of a natural disaster, what they should bring with them (medication, eyeglasses, assistive devices, etc.), how they will get there, and who they can call if they need help.
- If you or your loved one are in an assisted living facility or retirement community, be sure to inquire about their disaster readiness. Questions to ask: What emergency plans are in place? Are supplies and generators available? When will an evacuation occur and who will alert family members?
The best time to begin disaster preparations is before a threat presents itself. Take some time to talk to the older adults in your life to make sure they have the information and resources they need to be ready for the unexpected.
"Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community." - Anthony J. D'Angelo
About LifeStyle Options
Founded in 1989, LifeStyle Options is one of the oldest and largest, nurse owned & operated private duty home care agencies in Illinois. With over 300 highly experienced and trained homecare professionals, CNAs, and RNs on staff, they have earned a reputation for providing exceptional service to clients throughout the Greater Chicagoland area, enabling older adults to safely remain in the comfort of their own home.