It’s important for everyone to be prepared for an emergency. If you’re caring for someone with limited ability to see to their own needs, it’s especially important to have an emergency plan in place. Here are tips caregivers can use to prepare their plan.
If you had just a few minutes to leave your home, would you be able to go calmly, knowing that you have the supplies that you and your loved one need?
The supplies you need for an unexpected trip to the emergency room differ from those you need in an emergency that requires you to stay at home. Be prepared to evacuate by packing an emergency travel bag. Put together an emergency supply kit for sheltering in place.
The packed bag should include back-up medical supplies and cash. You should also have copies of insurance cards, phone numbers, and a list of prescriptions. (Tip: Upload these to the cloud, and give copies to another person in case cell service is down and you’re not able to access them.)
The emergency supply kit should have nonperishable food, water, and medical necessities. Stock enough to enable your loved one to survive at least three days at home. If necessary, arrange for groceries or medications to be delivered.
For power failures, make sure you have flashlights and extra batteries, a solar-powered radio, and first aid supplies. Keep in mind that medicines such as insulin may need refrigeration. And don’t forget to pack supplies for pets!
If your loved one is on oxygen or depends on life-saving equipment that uses electricity, emergency personnel and rescuers will know to prioritize your loved one’s evacuation accordingly. Be sure to register even if utilities are included in your rent and you are not billed directly by the power company.
Be sure everyone knows what to do in a disaster or crisis, and knows where the emergency kits are located. Your emergency plan should include what to do if you are unable to get to your loved one’s home, knowing your hurricane evacuation zone and nearby shelter centers, deciding where to meet network members and how to get there, and how you will communicate if normal methods become unavailable.
Your plan should also address prescriptions (and refills), maintaining any special medical equipment (wheelchair, etc.) or treatment (dialysis, etc.), and caring for pets (who are rarely permitted in shelters) or service animals. If your loved one lives in a care facility, discuss emergency plans and means of contact with staff.
This might be a municipally designated location, or it could simply be a central place where your family members can meet if you get separated.
This is a group of people who agree to help one another during emergencies, and should include at least one out-of-town contact who can be a point person for communication if local service is down. Network members exchange keys, important phone numbers, and copies of important documents and medical information so that they can effectively monitor and assist each other when problems arise. Tip: It’s a good idea for seniors, and anyone who lives alone, to have such a network.
Your contact should live far enough away that they aren’t affected by the same natural disaster, and should be a person that everyone (including children) feels comfortable calling. Provide your contact with phone numbers for your neighbors or local emergency personnel, and ask him or her to call the numbers to check on you in the event that you do not contact him or her.
All of this preparation can seem overwhelming, but there are lots of resources to help you out. For more information, including complete lists of suggested supplies and a customizable emergency plan, check out New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.