Disaster Planning for Family Caregivers
There is an endless supply of movies about fictional disasters and apocalyptic world ending scenarios that all let audiences vicariously experience big thrills and chills with the escapist entertainment they provide. But here, in the real world, there is absolutely nothing entertaining or enjoyable about disasters. Climate change fueled weather systems put countless lives across the nation in jeopardy with alarming frequency. Tornados, hurricanes, typhoons, monsoons, floods, fires, ice storms, and blizzards all affect tens of millions of Americans year after year. Not to mention extreme droughts, heat waves, and cold snaps, which can and do pose danger for many more. Any one of these events has the power to disrupt, displace, destroy, injure, and even kill. Keeping this in mind is why any adult in charge of the care and well-being of a senior citizen should consider organizing a disaster preparedness checklist and plan, and emergency supply kit, to be better able to safely navigate whatever extreme event arises.
Nobody likes to think about the unknown and unpredictable. But as disasters become more prevalent and more severe, often striking with little warning, it’s never a bad idea to take precautions. And where the elderly are concerned, being prepared is particularly important. Older adults, whether they live alone or in assisted living, oftentimes have mobility, vision, or hearing issues, and health conditions and medication regimens that make them particularly vulnerable to interruptions in services, utilities, or supply chains that can happen as the result of a disaster.
When a disaster strikes, things that are taken for granted by seniors and caregivers can suddenly become unavailable. And when things like prescription medications, fresh water, medical equipment are removed, the situation can easily become dire. Whether the seniors and caregivers can shelter in place, or are forced to evacuate or relocate to safer areas, having a disaster plan and stock of emergency supplies will not only bring peace of mind and help reduce anxieties, it can even save lives.
Public health departments are mandated to have disaster plans, but usually they fail to take into account the specific needs of the elderly. Seniors, and by extension their families and caregivers, must be advocates for their own safety. Either inquiring as to existing disaster plans wherever they may be, or creating one if there isn’t one. And with any plan, reviewing and testing it is key.
Asking the following questions and addressing them each in turn will help to form a disaster plan:
- How will power outages be handled?
- How can mobility issues be compensated for?
- How will medically necessary prescriptions and equipment be kept available in the event access to pharmacies and hospitals is interrupted?
- How will access to food and fresh, drinkable water be maintained?
Since there’s no guarantee that older people will make preparations for a disaster themselves, it falls upon caregivers to take charge of this often overlooked safety measure. And while your disaster plan may never be put into use, it is certainly better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.