When you have to consider older adults in the disaster preparedness scenario of yours, Emergency Elder Care takes a lot of work. FEMA doesn’t really cover this topic well. Our senior citizens require a few extra thoughts when a disaster occurs. Some matters caregivers must consider are:
- Whether to evacuate
- Emergency cash and fuel
- Special needs
- Elder’s medications and vital records
- Emergency evacuation of bedridden elders
- Communications problems during disasters
- General emergency supplies
- Comforting a frightened elder
Emergency Elder Care And Disaster Preparedness
Deciding Whether to Evacuate
When it comes to disaster planning in geriatric care management, caregivers must first decide whether it is safe (or even possible) to shelter-in-place.
- Will the house be in danger of a tree crushing it?
- Is the area prone to flooding?
- Is the house likely to lose power? For how long?
- Is the elder loved one on a special needs list with the utility companies?
Caregivers should assume they will receive no help from first responders, emergency management agencies, or healthcare providers. So, caregivers need an excellent emergency disaster plan!
If evacuating, caregivers must decide where they can go ahead of time. Is it possible to shelter with friends or relatives? Ask now. Do not wait until the disaster arrives to find out.
Emergency Cash and Fuel
Caregivers must also have cash on hand. Carefully consider family size and needs to ensure enough money on hand at all times to care for the family at least two weeks.
If immediate evacuation becomes necessary, on a Sunday, for example, banks will be closed, and ATMs will run out of money quickly. In the wake of major disasters, banks won’t open at all–maybe for weeks. ATMs cannot work without electricity. Merchants will refuse checks and credit cards.
It is wise to keep vehicles’ fuel tanks mostly full as well. If a fire is roaring over the hill, the last thing a caregiver needs is to have to stop for fuel before evacuating the danger zone! Check tires and fluid levels regularly, too. Finally, make sure the vehicle has a working jack and practice using it.
Geriatric Care Management for Seniors with Special Needs
Elderly individuals may have many special needs. They are especially vulnerable to heat and cold. Even limited exposure to temperature extremes can rapidly result in a life-or-death crisis. Will heating or air conditioning be available while sheltering-in-place or at the planned destination?
Many infirm seniors are oxygen-dependent. Oxygen concentrators require electricity. Have spare oxygen tanks available and ready to pack and go at a moment’s notice. Special needs shelters will not have oxygen available for elder loved ones. Caregivers must provide their own.
Before depending on a generator to operate special equipment, a caregiver must know how to use the generator safely and must be sure he can obtain fuel over the long term.
Elders’ Medications and Vital Records during Emergencies
This might be one of the most important things while looking at Emergency Elder Care. It is best to keep infirm elders’ medications and copies of their prescriptions stored together in a waterproof tote. This helps to prevent last-minute scrambling to find medications. The same storage technique works well for small medical equipment, too, like blood pressure cuffs, lancets, blood sugar monitors, etc.
Regarding records that are vital in an emergency, Durable Powers of Attorney and Living Wills top the list. Keep these and Drivers’ Licenses, Social Security cards, Medicare and Medicaid cards together with Home Health Care folders, doctors’ names, and contact information in their briefcase.
Emergency Evacuation of Bedridden Elderly
Know that shelters will not accept unique beds often needed by the bedridden. Elders staying in special needs shelters will have to sleep on cots, aggravating, or initiating pressure wounds. Some special needs shelters may not allow caregivers to remain with their loved ones. Become well informed regarding special needs sheltering options!
Additionally, many bedridden elders have developed severe contractures of the legs, arms, and spine. It can be nearly impossible to find a safe and proper position in a vehicle for placing elders who aren’t able to bend. If the caregiver is unsure about this, he should do a dry run to see how people and emergency supplies will fit.
Communications Problems during Disasters
It is important to note that communications inevitably break down during severe disasters. During the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005, telephone communications were out for weeks. After land-line phone services were restored, circuits were jammed by families trying to find or check on one another.
TV stations and internet services were out of commission. Cordless telephones did not work without electricity. Only cell phones with texting ability were useful. Texting won’t be very helpful, however, when power is unavailable for recharging.
Discuss disaster preparedness plans in advance. Let friends and family know where each party will be, and of alternative means of contact for reunion purposes.
Emergency Food, Water, Clothing
The American Red Cross offers excellent suggestions and checklists to get families started in emergency planning preparations. They explain how much drinking water should be available per person. They also describe what sorts of foods and other supplies are appropriate for stocking in advance of an emergency.
Yet, most resources do not cover preparing a dependent senior for such situations. In preparing elders for an immediate evacuation, keep a backpack ready for loved ones; pre-packed with a change of clothing, a toothbrush and personal items, an excellent book or game, a few favorite snacks, and even a teddy bear.
In predictable disasters, like hurricanes, include these “non-standard” supplies:
- Depends or other disposable undergarments
- Draw-sheets for turning or lifting the bedridden
- Disposable bed-liners for a comfortable, sanitary sleeping environment
Comforting Elders during a Disaster
Dementia patients are very easily disturbed by changes in routine. Be sure demented elders have some of their favorite foods and pastimes available to them. Many dementia patients seem to have an excessive desire for sweets. A supply of cookies, candies, and gum can add to their peace and happiness. Coloring books, playing cards, or favorite music can all help keep demented seniors happily occupied.
Still, having her calm prepared caregiver nearby will give the greatest sense of comfort and safety of all! Well-prepared caregivers insure themselves and their loved ones the very best chance of survival in any disaster situation.