Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Disaster Planning for the Elderly

News that a hurricane or tornado is on its way can cause anyone to worry. But if you are responsible for providing care for someone who is disabled, chances are you face additional concerns. You and the person you care for may not be able to "jump and run" when the tornado sirens are sounded or the hurricane warning is issued. Planning ahead will give you a little peace of mind.

For caregivers, as for everyone else, it is important to have basic supplies available. The supply list available at the American Red Cross web site (http://www.redcross.org/) serves as the model for many basic supply lists. Other sources provide information about special supplies for people with disabilities, for example Disaster Planning Tips for Senior Adults lists supplies that might be needed by people with disabilities and can be accessed online at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FY620.

Although planning for a disaster can be frightening, having a plan in place can help you and the person you care for feel more secure.
Caregivers often feel they are “on their own” during normal times, and this feeling may intensify during times of disaster when people are hurrying to take care of their own family and property. People will be more than glad to help, but they will need to know exactly what you need and when you need it.

Make plans for help with family, friends, and neighbors. Include someone on your team who is able to lift and carry heavy objects such as wheelchairs or other medical equipment. Give at least one other person a key to your home. Each team member should have the contact information for the others. Name a substitute caregiver in case you are unavailable or unable to provide care.

Evacuation can be complicated for caregivers. Develop an evacuation strategy with your “disaster team.” Consider the following:
• Where are the nearest special needs emergency shelters? Remember you may not be able to reach the closest shelter, so know where the next closest one is located. Practice driving to both using different routes prior to storm warnings.
• What supplies must you take with you? In addition to the supplies you would normally need for an evacuation, think of those things you use as a caregiver every day. Make a check list of special caregiving items such as incontinence items, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, pill splitter or crusher, and thermometer. Secure a box or case to carry them in.
• How many people are needed to help make the move? These people should be part of your disaster team. Know how to reach them.
• Whom should you inform that you are evacuating? Let your neighbors and family members know, and if you live in any kind of “complex” let the administrators know that you have left.
• Keep your vehicle's gas tank over ¾ full at all times

For a copy of the UF Extension publication “Disaster Planning Tips for Caregivers of the Elderly and People with Disabilities by Carolyn Wilken: “http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY75100.pdf

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