While the memory of Sandy was still fresh, many families were vigilant in making preparations for possible disasters. They stacked up on canned foods, bottled water and battery operated appliances. Five years later, these memories have faded and most emergency supplies have been lost or discarded.
The latest series of hurricanes are a wake up call that we should always be prepared for disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and other nature or manmade disasters. The news about Florida’s nursing home deaths is a reminder that seniors are the most vulnerable during a disaster.
Here are five steps seniors should take to weather a disaster:
Store Water and Non-Perishable Foods
Seniors are more prone to dehydration than younger people. They should stock enough emergency water for at least a week. A rule of thumb for seniors is to store at least one gallon of water per person per day. This is equivalent to about one six pack of bottled water. If a pet is involved, be sure to put aside enough water for him as well.
Stash away enough non-perishable food for a week. This can include a variety of canned foods such as prepared soups, tuna, sardines and vegetables. Other foods that can be stored include dried nuts, fruits, peanut butter and crackers. Don’t forget to pack a manual bottle opener and can opener if power goes out. If your hands are too arthritic to use a manual can opener, purchase one that runs on batteries—and don’t forget the batteries.
Prepare for Medical Emergencies
Create an emergency notebook that contains essential health information and place it next to the phone. The notebook should include a copy of your Medicare card, secondary insurance information, and credit cards account numbers. Write out a list off all doctors, their specialties, and their contact information. Make sure to add their emergency phone numbers as well as office phones.
Record all medications, dosages, and when they should be taken. Note the prescription number and phone number of the pharmacist. It is important to have all this information in a place that is readily accessible.
Register All Life Sustaining Medical Equipment
Some seniors require special life support equipment such as respirators, dialysis machines, or diabetic sugar monitors. All this equipment should be registered with local utility companies, such as Con Edison. Utility companies are required to maintain records on residents who are dependent on medical equipment so the company will give priority to restoring their power.
Register all medical equipment information with the equipment supplier. Each supplier should provide its users with back up generators that insure the equipment continues to work until power is restored.
Create a Personal Emergency Network
Make sure that someone is aware of your presence at all times. Is there a friend who lives near by? Ask if he or she will check on you in case of emergency. If you don’t have a friend living in the vicinity, find out if your building or neighborhood association has a network contacting residents in case of emergency.
Check on Home Health Attendant Services
If you require a daily home attendant, check on the agency’s official emergency care policy. All certified home health agencies are required to develop a written safety plan for each patient when they sign up with the agency.
If a certified agency is not being used, be sure to discuss and agree on what procedures the care provider should follow in an emergency so there are no misunderstandings.
Let us all hope that there will not be a natural emergency like Superstorm Sandy, Irma, Harvey or Maria that hits us in the near future. But let us not become complacent. It is better to be prepared and safe than endure another emergency situation.
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