5 Ways Seniors Can Prepare for an Emergency

5 Ways Seniors Can Prepare for an Emergency

September 28, 2018

2018 was a headline-making year for disasters. Between fires, gas leaks, and hurricanes, there wasn’t a news day that didn’t include devastating reports of families being forced from their homes due to dangerous conditions. While having an emergency preparedness strategy is always a good idea, seniors may have additional concerns that go outside the norm for the typical family, and they may not have given much thought to what they will do if an evacuation is needed.


Read on to learn how to keep your older loved one safe before, during, and after a crisis.

1. Stay informed

With social media and advanced weather technology working together to alert people to danger, most disasters can be averted if you are diligent about following the news. For older Americans, who still get their news through the nightly television program, however, more frequent updates can save lives. Ask your senior how they would learn about a coming disaster. Are they signed up for text message alerts? Can they get a phone call from a neighbor? Do they know the proper NOAA radio station to turn to? When minutes matter, it’s imperative that they know which source of info is the most accurate and up-to-date. Let them know who they can call if they aren’t sure about the info they receive, as well.

2. Pack

For the senior, going even just one day away from home without the essentials can be life-threatening – especially when medications are often left behind during the chaos of an emergency. Help your senior pack up a small “go bag” with the following must-have items suggested by FEMA’s Ready.gov website (and not much more):

  • One gallon of water per person per day (minimum of 3 days)
  • 3-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Portable radio with NOAA Weather Tone alert and extra batteries (hand-crank radios aren’t advised for older seniors)
  • Basic first-aid kit with OTC meds, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.
  • 3 days’ medications
  • Dust mask for protection against dust and poor air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Whistle or air horn to call for help
  • Baby wipes, plastic garbage bags, and twist ties for emergency bathroom and hygiene needs
  • Adult diapering, catheter supplies, diabetic test strips, and other disposable care items
  • Basic tools (wrench, screwdriver, hammer) for turning off utilities
  • Cell phone charger (if cell phone is owned)
  • Hearing aid batteries
  • Cash and a credit card
  • Change of extra clothes
  • Copies of important papers, such as insurance policies, bank records, and ID

This list didn’t include the needs of a pet or service animal, so make sure you keep extra food, water, and pet medications on hand for 3 days for each pet you own, as well. Have a plan in place in case your local shelter or the hotel you’ve designated as an emergency meeting point doesn’t accept animals.

3. Prioritize

In the stress of an evacuation, it can be difficult to think clearly. For a senior who doesn’t leave home much or can get confused easily, it’s even more challenging to know what to do first – and what to leave behind. Reinforce the steps to take for each type of emergency, including fire, flood, and tornado. Remember that valuables, such as jewelry, weapons, etc., shouldn’t be retrieved if time is of the essence. Grab the go-bag only and proceed to the safest exit or agreed upon meeting place.

4. Practice

Just as children learn the importance of “stop, drop, and roll” for a fire – and memorize the fire evacuation drill – seniors should be reminded of their plan of action in an emergency. Since they often live alone, they may not have the benefit of going over a family plan on a regular basis. Make a point once a month to discuss what seasonal dangers are common, as well as what to do during an “anytime” emergency, such as a gas leak or fire. This practice can be simple and done in person or over the phone; ask them a few questions, such as “where would you go first if the smoke alarm goes off?” or “where is your go-bag for when you have to leave home quickly?”

5. Reassure

Seniors are just as likely as the rest of us to experience anxiety or stress over the thought of an emergency, and the CDC estimates that 7 million Americans over 65 deal with depression each year. Given the high statistics of this older population to be affected by worry and strain, it’s important to focus on how preparing for an emergency isn’t meant to add to that burden but is a solution for peace of mind. Creating a plan now allows for your senior loved one to rest in the fact that they will know what to do when the time comes. It can put all of those “what if’s” away so that they don’t need to fuss over them.

In the business that comes with caring for a senior loved one, it can be easy to get consumed with the day-to-day needs and forgo planning for an unseen future. As news reports have so sadly revealed, however, the older populations of the country are sometimes the most to suffer. With transportation and communication already limited, it can be especially taxing to get assistance during an emergency – especially when so many people are thinking about how to protect their own, immediate families.

By working with your senior loved one to have these important talks now – when the sun is shining and stormy days seem distant – these important plans can be made with less stress. Making a plan now is also more affordable and more likely to be adhered to when the time comes to act.

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