Natural and man-made disasters are an inevitable part of life. The United States population consists of about 47 million seniors, which means that approximately 14.5 % of Americans are aged 65 and older. Unfortunately, when it comes to disasters, seniors are often the most affected given their physical condition and situation. Although there are limitations among the senior population, with proper planning seniors can increase their chance of survival. Whether they have chosen to age at home or are living in assisted living communities, it is critical for seniors to plan their resources and prepare the best they can before an emergency situation arises. Here are a few tips to help seniors prepare for emergency situations.
Evacuation Plan and Escape Routes
If a senior has chosen to age at home, it is important to help them create an emergency plan that includes evacuation routes and a plan for remaining in place. Talk with your senior loved ones about your concerns should a weather emergency happen. A good plan will include the details of an evacuation, such as where they can expect to be picked up, phone numbers for emergency services that will provide transportation during an evacuation and where you will meet should you become separated. Be sure to share this information with all friends and family members involved with the potential evacuation. If the senior still drives and may have to evacuate on their own, it is essential that they know the escape routes, where their located and where they lead to. Also, make a chart for ways to escape from each room in the room and practice the escape plan regularly. If your elderly loved one lives in an assisted living community or nursing home, talk with the administrators to learn the facilities emergency plans.
It is extremely important to create an emergency in case the senior must survive on their own, during and after an emergency. Emergency kits can be purchased already assembled or you can create one. Regardless of whether you buy a kit or make one, they should include:
- Minimum of a 3-day supply of non-perishable food and one gallon of water per day
- Flashlight and plenty of batteries
- Battery operated radio or television
- First aid kit
- Extra clothing
- Waterproof matches
- Photocopies of identification
- Cell phone with charger
- Prescription medications, eye glasses and hearing aid batteries
- Manual can opener and a multi-purpose tool, such as a Swiss army knife
Emergency Contact Cards
Whether the senior lives alone or in a nursing home, emergency contact cards are a must. Use index cards to write the individuals name, the names and phone numbers of each family member, list of prescription medications, especially those that are used for serious medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. The contact card should also include the senior’s blood type, allergies, adaptive equipment and communication difficulties. It’s also beneficial to include their primary physicians name and phone number.
Do some research to determine how local authorities will notify the residents in the area in which the senior lives, for instance, will there be a siren, or will updates about the disaster be available on the radio, television or only local weather stations. Familiarize the senior with the means of notification and supply them with a list of phone numbers for local police, fire and emergency transportation. Keep in mind that when emergencies happen, the power is often one of the first things affected, so be sure to provide your elderly loved ones with a cell phone and teach them how to charge it. An emergency can interfere with the senior's ability to react quickly, so consider adding pre-selected contacts in the cellphone, such as police, fire and numbers for family members.