A critical, and often over looked, component of senior care is to assure that elderly loved ones have the means to protect their health and wellbeing in the event of a disaster. Falls, illnesses, memory lapses: These are the “disasters” most children of aging parents worry about and do their best to either prepare for or avoid. Few people consider how their loved ones would manage in the face of a natural disaster, and few seniors think to prepare themselves and their homes for such an event.
There are two key actions you can take to help prepare your loved one to weather a disaster.
1. Have a Plan
Regardless of the type of disaster your loved ones may face, have a specific plan in place that they understand and can implement on their own. This plan should, at a minimum, include:
- Necessary Phone Numbers. Be sure your parents have a list of key telephone numbers, including your own, programmed into their cell phones and listed on a piece of paper that they keep in their wallet.
- An Out-of-Town Contact Person. After a disaster, the local phone lines are often overwhelmed, but people can reach contacts in other parts of the state or country. When you identify an out-of-town contact person, it assures that your elderly parents will have someone to communicate with in most circumstances.
- Community Response and Evacuation Plans. Assure that you and your family members know these plans and understand how to utilize them in the event of an emergency. Know evacuation routes, emergency shelter locations, etc. and create maps for your loved ones to keep in their vehicle.
- A Meeting Place. If you live near your elderly parents, designate a central meeting place where you can gather close to evacuation routes or shelters.
- Any Mobility Aids. Label all walkers, wheel chairs, and other mobility aids, and encourage your parents to keep them in designated areas so that they are easy to locate in an emergency.
- A Plan for Pet Care. If your parents have a pet that is not a service dog, know which veterinarians, pet-friendly hotels, or family members are available to care for the animal during an emergency.
- Vital Documents. If you haven't done so already, assure that all important documents such as birth and marriage certificates, property deeds, vehicle titles, social security cards, wills, and passports as well as financial documents and immunization records are locked in a fire-proof safe or safe-deposit box.
The key to an effective emergency preparedness plan is to address the most likely disasters that your loved ones could face and educate them on what to do if disaster strikes.
2. Create a Disaster Kit
Help your parents pack disaster supplies with enough food, water, medications, etc. to last for at least three days. Make sure that there is a reasonable amount of cash included in the supplies for emergency purposes. Keep in mind that your loved one may not be able to manage much weight and store these supplies in containers that are easy for them to manage, like a backpack or small, wheeled suitcase that is labeled with their name, address, and telephone numbers. Help them keep their kit up to date by replacing perishables on a regular basis. Store the kit in an easy-to access location, such as a garage, spare closet, or cabinet and, if possible, mark the storage area so that it is not overlooked in the event of a power outage.
If your parents still drive, you may also want to create a road and/or emergency preparedness kit that is kept in the car.
As a child of aging parents, you understand the many joys and challenges of senior care. Helping them create a disaster plan and kit can give both you and your parents peace of mind in the event that the worst should happen.