Emergency kits usually include standard supplies like non-perishable food, drinking water, batteries and first aid equipment. But, if you have an elderly or disabled relative living with you or nearby, there are some additional considerations to make when it comes to emergency preparedness for senior citizens.
Every area of the world is prone to certain dangerous events. Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, landslides, floods and winter storms are real threats for millions of people each year. Planning and preparing for the possibility of severe weather or a natural disaster is crucial for safety and survival.
What to Include in a Senior Emergency Kit
Mobility AidsIf your elder has limited mobility or is bedbound or wheelchair bound, make detailed plans for how they will get around and evacuate their home if necessary. For example, if your parent uses a motorized wheelchair to get around, be sure to have a manual wheelchair on hand as a backup.
Durable Medical EquipmentMost emergency shelters do not have durable medical equipment (DME) available on site, so seniors must bring their own. This includes therapeutic oxygen equipment, mobility aids, blood sugar monitors, CPAP devices, specialized cushions to prevent skin breakdown and any other portable DME your loved one requires to maintain their health.
Visual AidsFor a loved one who is blind or visually impaired, keep an extra cane by their bed and attach a whistle to it. Remind them to exercise caution when moving during or immediately after an emergency, as items in the home may have shifted and paths may have become obstructed. Be sure to include an extra pair of glasses or other necessary visual aids in your loved one’s emergency kit.
Personal Care Products and Sanitation SuppliesSeniors often require specific supplies to ensure their personal hygiene and comfort. Stocking up on necessary items, such as incontinence supplies (e.g., adult briefs, pads, wet wipes, barrier creams, catheter and ostomy supplies), bathing products, latex gloves, toilet paper and commode liners, will help ensure their fundamental daily routine and quality of care change as little as possible during and after an emergency situation. Don’t forget supplies like face masks, garbage bags, paper towels, disinfectant spray or wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
Hearing AidsIndividuals who are hearing impaired should keep extra batteries for hearing aids with their emergency supplies. When not in use, store hearing aids in a container in a designated space, such as the senior’s nightstand, so they can be located quickly in the event of an emergency.
ID, Legal and Health InformationKeep copies of important identification and health documents on hand in an emergency folder for yourself and your care recipient. Bringing your driver’s license or ID card and insurance cards is ideal, but copies are better than nothing. Other important papers to include in this file are copies of power of attorney (POA) documents, advance directives and a complete medication list. If you must evacuate, bringing copies of the deed or lease to one’s home, insurance policies and similar papers may be a good idea as well.
Prescription MedicationsTalk to your loved one’s doctor about obtaining an extra week’s supply of all their prescription medications. This will help your loved one stick to their regimen despite inclement weather and closed or inaccessible pharmacies. Just keep in mind that prescription and over-the-counter medications do have shelf lives. Dispose of any expired medications in emergency kits accordingly.
First Aid KitInclude a complete first aid kit and manual in your emergency supplies bag.
A Communication PlanYour family and friends may not be together when disaster strikes, so make a plan for how you will contact one another or determine a safe place where you all can meet if traveling is feasible. Keep in mind that roads may be unsafe and internet and phone lines may be down for some time, depending on the situation.
Make a list of important phone numbers for family, friends, local shelters and aid organizations, and your loved one’s other care team members to include in your emergency file.
An Emergency Care PlanIf a senior receives in-home care services or resides at a long-term care facility, be sure to ask their care providers about their protocol for emergency situations. For example, find out up to what point home health aides will still come to your loved one’s home to provide care or when, where and how your loved one’s senior living facility evacuates residents. Don’t forget to create backup plans to help you pivot quickly in changing circumstances.
Creating an Emergency Plan Helps Keep You Safe and Calm
If your aging relative has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, know that even seniors who are cognitively impaired have an innate understanding that something is wrong in emergency situations. Explain what is happening in easy-to-understand terms, but don’t expect them to remember specific details. Validate their concerns but try to keep them as calm as possible. Provide clear direction without being condescending or losing patience.
Creating a comprehensive emergency plan and disaster supplies kit is crucial for ensuring you and your family are well prepared for potentially dangerous situations. Not only do these things help you practically and logistically, but they also help you feel more confident and therefore calmer.
For more tips on how to prepare for common emergencies and types of natural disasters that are specific to your area, visit the Red Cross website.