It’s September in Houston and it’s the height of hurricane season. Although this hurricane season has been very non-eventful for the Gulf Coast, now is a good time to review or develop your family’s emergency plan for aging parents and other older adults.
A proper emergency preparedness plan takes into account a wide range of possibilities and needs to be created with care; visit Ready.gov , the CDC website, or the Red Cross website to find more detailed information on how to properly prepare for a disaster.
In the meantime, here are several tips that those taking care of elderly patients should consider in order to make sure that they are prepared in the event of a tornado, earthquake, or similar emergency.
- Go federally electronic. If the senior in your care is still receiving Social Security or other federal benefits via a check in the mail, consider switching to an electronic payment system. A severe disaster can disrupt mail service for many days; electronic payments ensure that seniors receive funds even if the postal service is unable to function.
- Make an emergency kit. An emergency kit should include many basic items such as food and water, but many seniors have medical needs that caregivers must also consider. Emergency kits for seniors may need to include medications, over-the-counter drugs, inhalers, syringes, pumps, anti-bacterial wipes, a first aid kit, extra hearing aids (and batteries), spare eye glasses, and medical equipment.
- Get documented. It’s also important to keep essential medical documents in or near the kit. These documents include a list of doctors, along their contact numbers and the issues that they treat, a list of the medical conditions affecting the senior in question, the medications the senior takes and the dosage and schedule for each medication, known allergies, and insurance and Medicare/Medicaid cards. It’s also probably best to keep both printed copies of this information and electronic copies, with the latter on a flash drive for easy transportation.
- Plan ahead with doctors. If a patient requires regular or periodic treatment at a hospital or other medical facility, the senior and caregiver need to discuss with the appropriate doctors which alternatives are possible if an emergency shuts down the location at which treatment is typically given. Be sure to ask both about alternatives in your local area and those in slightly more distant areas in the event that you need to evacuate your locality.
- Create a communications strategy. Make sure that a system is in place so that family members can get in touch with each other in the event that they are not all in one place during an emergency; this is especially important in the event of an evacuation of your home or geographic area. Designate a central meeting place outside of your suspected evacuation zone.D
As mentioned above, there are many other factors to consider when making an effective emergency preparedness plan. The more carefully considered and thought-out the plan, the more useful it will be if a situation ever arises in which it is needed.