Severe weather is always a major concern for our elderly. If you have older loved ones somewhere in the southeastern portion of the U.S., you should have had at least one phone call with them by now. The conversation should have included a plan for what is about to happen. If you are an older person living alone and have fears concerning this storm, you must have a plan to keep yourself safe.
The key to any emergency situation is having a list of resources that you can count on. Find pen and paper to write a list of resources and contact information. Preparing for a loss of power for several days or weeks should be expected and you won’t have access to your computer or cell phone. Write down all friends and family, primary care physician, pharmacist, and local disaster relief numbers.
Call your loved ones’ neighbors to ensure they plan on staying close by to check in. If you don’t live close to your aging parent, there is nothing more stressful than not being able to call or visit. Ask if a neighbor will check in at least a couple times per day and then let your parents know to expect some visits.
Expect flooding in this case and make sure copies of deeds, personal identification, insurance policies, social security cards and birth certificates are in one place – ideally in a sealed plastic bag. If you want to go the extra mile, make electronic copies of each and add the documents to a USB drive and place the USB file in a safety deposit box. Make a video of all your belongings on your phone. Email it to yourself and others so it can be safely stored.
If you have a car, park it on high ground and fill the gas tank. Assemble a to-go kit in case of evacuation to a shelter or hospital. This kit should include two pairs of clean clothes, an extra set of eyeglasses or contact lenses, hand sanitizer and other personal hygiene products, medications, personal documents and travelers’ checks and/or cash. Remember that ATMs may not be operating. Be prepared to leave in an instant.
Many elderly folks have a companion pet. Make sure you know where the local animal shelter is. Stock up on food, water and cat litter.
Ask your doctor and pharmacist for an extra month’s supply of medication. If power and roads are not accessible, having an extra supply of medication will help prevent you from running out and also be an additional measure of emotional comfort.
If you are sheltering in place, make sure there is at least five days of water and nonperishable food available. A manual can opener may be necessary. If you use oxygen or a nebulizer, you should register with the power company. Understand this will only prioritize when power is restored, not guarantee when or if the power comes back on. Extra portable oxygen tanks will need to be ordered and stored properly. Safe travel with oxygen is a must. Have all loose furniture or yard items placed inside a shed or in a low traffic area of the home.
If your folks live in an assisted living facility or nursing home, ask for a copy of the emergency evacuation plan. Understanding if and when relocation might take place, that proper backup generators are present and that staff levels will be safely maintained should be top of mind.
Rich DeLong is the executive director of Station Exchange Senior Care. He can be reached at 912-531-7867 or SeniorMomentsWithRich@gmail.com.