How to Design a Disaster Preparedeness Plan for Older Citizens
While disaster preparedness is essential for everyone, worldwide, the specialized needs of seniors may be overlooked by other family members when considering disaster preparedness. Or worse still, the issues likely to arise during a possible disaster are avoided completely when people prefer to pretend that disasters could never happen to them. It’s very important to consider such issues as frailty, medication, mobility, and fear concerning senior citizens when developing a disaster preparedness plan for your family or community.
Commit to creating a plan. Make the time, take the time to really review both your own and your family’s needs. Consider the possibility of being left alone, on your own for some time. It is a reality that even family members cannot or will not help you for various reasons, from fear to stubbornness, from inability to reach you to injury or even death.
Look at your daily routine, ask yourself some important questions. These should include asking: “What do I need?”, “What do I use everyday?”. Your answers will tell you what to prepare for, your answers will tell you what is necessary to put in your kit over and above the standard requirements advised by disaster advisory bodies in your region. Some special things to consider in relation to senior persons include:
- Is the person on medication, does the person have prostheses? Will the pharmacy allow you to order a supply of medication in advance for this person? Or, is there a need to apportion or ration some of the medication supply the family has already?
- Is the medication in liquid or powder form; will you need clean water or certain types of food to take the medication properly? Think about these things. Perhaps it is a good idea to place a note in large font in a plastic bag with the medication, stating its side effects and the administration guidelines. Make sure to include to state any allergies or side effects. If the medication requires refrigeration, maybe keep some pre-frozen packets ready to hand and an ice chest, to maintain a required lower temperature. Think about these details in advance of the need.
Get the medic bracelet sorted. If you need a medic alert bracelet, get one.
Prepare an emergency kit. In creating an emergency kit, include items such as safe stable footwear, hat, glasses, gloves, water, non-perishable food, a manual can opener, and medical first aid supplies. In addition, it is helpful to have to hand: contact lenses, dentures, bandages, scissors, medical tape, antihistamine, a handy can opening twist for people who lack strength, etc. Custom fit your emergency kit to personally fit the elderly person’s needs. Do you have or need a light weight sweater? Don’t forget about storing extra money – there is no assurance that the electricity and computers will work in a disaster when electricity goes down – if so, will that make your credit or debit card use inoperable?
Locate in advance several shelters that you can get to on your own. There may be no public transportation and you and your family might have to get there on foot, even with some climbing over rubble. How will you circumvent that possibility especially with an elderly and/or infirm person in tow? Create a support network of like-minded people. Encourage one another to complete each of these goals. Have on hand stretchers, wheelchairs, etc. that are accessible to the community in times of need.
Teach someone how to use medical equipment. If there are medical machines required for an elderly person, show a reliable person how to operate and maintain them so that there is someone else besides yourself or the elderly person able to do this.
Prepare for emergency care for the elderly person’s pets. These will be a source of distress if injured and a source of comfort when kept safe.