Emergency Preparedness for the Elderly

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posted by Ryan Whittington on February 11, 2011

Living along the Gulf of Mexico, on the west coast of Florida, for several years, I became concerned with Hurricane season each year.  In lieu of the past several seasons with devastating storms across the nation, I have become especially concerned for the elderly that I serve.

People frequently think about one type of disaster like hurricanes--however there are numerous other possibilities that might require evacuation--tornadoes,fire, floods, gas leaks, earthquakes, extreme heat, power outages, chemical or biological agents, and wind.

As a Nurse working in the field of eldercare, in a Private Duty Home Health Agency, we are required by law to ensure that our clients have a workable evacuation plan. Each Seniors Home Care plan must be updated annually or anytime a clients circumstances change.

This is a challenging responsibility especially with some of the Frail Elderly. There are two groups of the Frail Elderly that really present a problem. One is those that require some help at home to ensure that they are placed in a shelter that is able to meet their needs.The second group are those that are still alert enough to express their needs and wants, however, they are at a stage where they frequently make irrational decisions for themselves.

The latter is the the most challenging group to get to see the need for any planning.

These persons think they are still able to do their own medications even when shown the mistakes that they are making. They talk to solicitors on the phone and frequently allow them into their home.

They are unable to comprehend the symptoms of illness and often deny them.

Frequently they cancel doctor visits because they "forgot" that they are not feeling well.

They ignore warnings of impending dangers such as hurricanes,tornadoes, etc.

They cannot foresee the reality of being without electricity or water for days.

IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME-- is a common belief.

Making emergency plans for this group is almost an art or, at least requires a lot of prayer.

Things needed in case of Emergency:

  1. Vital data records:
    • Name,address,telephone number of the elder, doctor and family emergency contacts.
    • Name and number of caregiver or private duty agency
    • Name,telephone number of pharmacy
  2. Complete Updated Medication list-- we maintain this list for our clients.
  3. Health history records.
  4. Medications for at least three days.
  5. Clothes for at least three days.
  6. Equipment and supplies--such as Oxygen, Wheelchair, walker, incontinent supplies, personal toiletry items.
  7. Sometimes extreme weather can knock out power which may cause a person to have to leave their home.  In this case, some things should be considered.

Most shelters only provide a cot.  The following items must be taken to the shelter--sheets, pillows, blanket, a comfortable lawn chair, snack items, special diet items.

  • Cash in small bills and coins.
  • Flashlight with plenty of extra batteries.

Plans for pets must be made --most shelters do not accept pets. Those that do, require that the pet be in a pet carrier. Pet food, collar, leash, and shot record must accompany the pet.

As you can see, this is not something most frail elderly can manage by themselves. It is imperative that someone be assigned to assist in establishing the plan, gathering all the necessities, having them ready at all times, packing and transporting the elder to the shelter.

If your parent tells you that they have a plan ask them where they will be going (so you can check.) Many frail elderly think they have things under control but when you look further you will see that most of their plan is based on old information. Make sure to dig for information.

If your elderly family member is too frail to go to a shelter then they must apply with the county Emergency Management Department to be evacuated to a special needs shelter or area nursing home. BUT you must register now --not during an emergency. Once registered, the county will call your family member before evacuation to give them a pick up time--THEY MUST BE READY--Emergency workers are not going to pack.

To receive regular updates and emergency notifications, you can visit the City Of St. Louis Emergency Management website.

Again, if you do not live in the same town as your frail elderly parent, please make sure someone is assuming the responsibility for all that getting ready entails.

If I may be of any assistance in caring for your elder family member, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Dedicated To Eldercare
Nurse Alice

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