No matter how much planning one does before a natural disaster—be it a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, fire, or flood—its arrival can often feel like a complete surprise. And for aging seniors, evacuating often comes with its own set of difficulties. With hurricane season still in effect and early winter storms blanketing parts of the country in snow, Aging Life Care Professionals® are urging all aging adults to make sure they are prepared with a plan.
“Whether it’s a hurricane, snowstorm, fire, or earthquake, having a disaster plan can be the difference between a safe evacuation and a more dangerous situation,” says Liz Barlowe, an Aging Life Care Manager from Florida who has been through several hurricanes and evacuations. “It doesn’t matter if the senior lives at home independently or in a facility, each individual needs both a proactive plan and reactive plan.”
Proactive planning includes having important documents and insurance cards in order as well as an emergency kit of medications, money, first-aid items, batteries, water, and food. This plan should be in writing, updated every six months to a year, and be shared with all responsible care parties.
Reactive planning plans for the “what-ifs” after a disaster. “Knowing where you can stay if your home is uninhabitable after a storm; or knowing where you can go for medical care in another city brings an aging senior some peace of mind,” says Barlowe. “When I develop a plan for my clients, my goal is to get them back to their normal daily routine as soon as possible.”
Aging Life Care Professionals offer these evacuation tips for aging adults:
- Prepare, plan, practice!
- Gather all important documents (e.g. Banking information, Trusts/wills, POAs, Deeds, Insurance Information-property and health, an emergency only credit card, and a small amount of petty cash). Place these items in a fireproof and/or carry-friendly box. Make sure to place the box in an easily accessible location.
- Gather all medications (or pictures of labels), medication lists, and important health information. Place these items in a separate fireproof and/or carry-friendly box, if possible for ease in carrying. Make sure to place the box in the same easily accessible location.
- If there are pets, research animal boarding ahead of time and create a plan for boarding. Make sure all pets have vaccinations and papers required for boarding (place these documents in the medication information box along with your loved one’s information).
- Research temporary housing options–hotels, respite care in assisted living, family or friends, in nearby communities.
- Register for weather alerts with the local authorities.
Long-distance caregiving comes with a separate set of challenges. Barlowe recommends finding an Aging Life Care Professional in the local area to serve as an emergency contact and activate the disaster plan when you can’t be there. Someone local will also have a better knowledge of the resources and support systems available. A national directory of professionals is available at aginglifecare.org.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.