Preparing an elderly loved one for hurricane season
Posted: 9/11/2019 8:00 AM by
Hurricane season is among us. For many residents of the southeastern United States, the next few months can mean a flurry of warnings, watches and sometimes, hurricanes hitting land. While hurricane preparation is stressful for anyone, it’s especially stressful for families who are caring for senior loved ones.
Preparation is essential to keep your elderly loved ones safe this hurricane season. Putting the time and effort into advance planning can prevent catastrophe and provide everyone with peace of mind.
Unsure where to start? Experts recommend these steps to keep Mom or Dad safe:
Build a “help network” to cover all your bases
Multiple agencies, including FEMA and Ready.gov from the Department of Homeland Security, recommend that you create a “help network” of neighbors or friends who can provide assistance to your loved one during an emergency. Create a list of home and cell phone numbers for everyone in the network, and post a list on both your and your loved one’s refrigerators (or somewhere else where it can’t be missed).
Once you’ve established your network, review key hurricane-planning steps and tips with everyone so that regardless of who steps up during an emergency, everyone is clear on what to do and when. Also, be certain that every group member has a key or code in order to enter your loved one’s home.
If your loved one has a senior home care aide, be sure to check with your provider to understand their policies and procedures in case of a major storm or natural disaster.
Create a hurricane care kit
If you haven’t already, build your hurricane care kit immediately. The American Red Cross recommends that you stock your kit with essentials to last three to five days. To make it easy for your loved one to access and potentially move the kit, be sure it’s easy to carry (perhaps in a backpack or duffle bag) or is on wheels.
Be sure to label the kit with an ID tag that contains both your and your loved one’s contact information. Label any medical equipment, such as canes or walkers, with your parent’s name and contact information as well to ensure nothing is lost or misplaced.
Inform members of your “help network” about the care kit, its contents and location so that they can access it if needed.
As a starting point, be sure your care kit includes these items:
* One gallon of water per day, either a 3-to-5-day supply for a shelter or a 2-week supply for a home kit
* Canned or dried food that doesn’t require cooking
* A manual or battery operated can opener
* Flashlights with extra batteries
* A battery-operated or hand crank radio
* A weeklong supply of medications
* Medical supplies
* Sanitation and hygiene items, including toilet paper and plastic garbage bags
* Copies of important personal documents, including medication lists, deeds or leases, birth certificates, insurance policies and personal contacts
* Charged up battery packs to provide charge to cell phones and other devices if the power goes out
* A whistle
* Additional sets of keys to your loved one’s house and/or car
* Entertainment options like books, crossword puzzles and playing cards
* A small supply of cash or traveler’s checks
* Extra contact lenses or glasses
* A blanket
This list will cover the basics, but be sure to review the supplies your loved one uses on a regular basis — oxygen, catheters, batteries for a wheelchair or hearing aids and other items may need to be added to the list. Check with suppliers and/or your parent’s doctors about getting extras as needed. Certain items may only be needed in case of evacuation. Clearly label them as such, or prepare a separate, labeled bag for evacuations as well.
If you are lucky, and the care kit isn’t needed this year, be sure to check the supplies every six months and replace anything that’s expired. This is also a good opportunity to review, reevaluate and practice evacuation plans so that next year’s planning will be a breeze.
Research special emergency shelters
Identify the nearest emergency shelter to your loved one in case evacuation is needed. If your parent requires special care, be sure to determine which special-needs emergency shelters are in the area. Registration for these shelters is often required in advance so transportation can be arranged, so be sure to call and solidify the details as soon as possible if a storm is headed toward your loved one.
Depending on the health or medical challenges of your loved one, the doctor may recommend a hospital or nursing facility as the best option over a shelter. If so, be sure to get your parent a pre-admission letter to a specific facility. Include this letter with important documents in the evacuation version of your preparedness kit. Doing this in advance will help with insurance claims.
Don’t forget pets
Many emergency shelters (and especially hospitals) do not allow pets. If you senior loved one has a pet, it’s important to determine in advance how the animal will be cared for in case of a hurricane. You may want to research pet-friendly hotels or animal boarding facilities, and can contact these organizations in advance of a storm. Be sure to create an emergency care kit for pets, too! For inspiration, Ready.gov has recommendations on how to put together a disaster kit for pets.
Set up direct deposit
Unfortunately, bills still need to be paid during natural disasters. And oftentimes, hurricanes and other disasters can disrupt mail service. Ready.gov recommends seniors sign up to receive their social security payments or other federal benefits electronically instead of by paper check to avoid financial troubles. This is especially important if your loved one depends on these benefits.
Seniors can sign up for electronic payments online or by calling (800) 333-1795. Knowing that Mom or Dad will still have access to important funds in case of an emergency can provide considerable peace of mind to you both.
Rest assured Mom or Dad is cared for in case of an emergency
Major storms can be dangerous and frightening. Advance planning is the key to weathering a storm safely and easing stress for both you and your parent when a potential hurricane looms. And for extra peace of mind, senior home care services can ensure Mom or Dad is happy and healthy. To learn more, contact the Interim HealthCare location nearest you.