Emergency preparedness is something family caregivers consider throughout the year.
How well our senior loved ones recover from an emergency reflects their preparation.
We think about getting emergency supplies in the house during storm season, as well as equipping the house with warning systems such as carbon monoxide and fire detectors.
Preparedness also includes knowing the location of the nearest emergency shelters – – just in case.
We have batteries, flashlights and non-perishable food stored in case the power goes out and we need to be safe several days while we wait it out. We also have made plans for emergency care of our senior’s medical devices, ability to manage their prescription drugs, and having supplies they require ready when needed.
However, there are several other things that caregivers should consider to fully prepare our senior loved ones (and ourselves) to face an emergency.
As winter approaches and the risk of emergencies increases, we have put together a few ideas family caregivers might want to consider in order to get their seniors prepared.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014 21.3% of people 65 and older visited the emergency room and 15.3% were hospitalized.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners report that almost half of the nation is not prepared to deal with potential losses. 48% did not have an inventory of their possessions and 28% did not know what type of insurance coverage protected them as a result of disasters. 65% don’t have flood insurance.
Catastrophic losses are the result of:
- hurricanes – 40%
- tornado – 36%
- winter storms – 7%
- wind/hail/flood – 3.8%
- fire – 1.7%
Flooding is the most common natural disaster. Hailstorms, wildfires, and earthquakes affect us regionally.
Approximately 1,200 tornadoes strike the US annually. A typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes.
To protect our seniors during any emergency, whether natural disaster or medical, preparing a network of people who can reach out to help them is vital. Not only will it give us and them peace of mind, but this network is poised to help during a crisis.
Creating a network for your seniors, with their help, should happen now and be updated regularly. This network will benefit you as a caregiver, not just during an emergency but throughout the year, especially if you become ill and need a backup plan.
Caregivers can begin by bringing together people in the community who can lend support, such as family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, church friends, and even paid caregivers/companions, to join their network and upon whom they can call when needed.
Can helpers look in on your senior, drive them somewhere, transport them to a shelter, or care for the pet in case of emergency?
Could you use them to be in charge if you are a long distance caregiver?
After careful discussion with members of the network, a plan should be in place and an agreement achieved before an emergency strikes so everyone knows their role.
Will they check in immediately after a natural disaster or drop in once a week?
Everyone in the senior’s network should have access to the senior and be able to contact the primary caregiver directly.
Do they need a house key, do they know where the emergency supplies and documents are kept, do they have access to insurance cards or medication list, and are they aware of our senior’s advance directive?
What is the communication plan if the telephone or power is not operational?
Can caregivers connect to a community or paid service that will link your senior to first responders, if needed, such as a Lifeline plan, PERS or local emergency providers before a disaster strikes?
Homeland Security has a form that you can use, called a Family Communications Plan, that you can download and complete including wallet cards for contact information and key points, such as a meeting place in case of emergency.
In Case of Emergency (ICE)
Recently we learned about strategies to help our seniors (and us) in case of an emergency so treatment will not be delayed as first responders search for an adult to get directions for care.
We can add ICE information to both our and our senior’s smartphones. Actually, everyone is advised to add an ICE contact in their smartphone for first responders and healthcare professionals to have access to the information that they will need to help in an emergency.
There are instructions we can access depending on the brand or operating system of the cellular device we and our seniors are using to help guide in setting up an ICE contact in our smartphones.
It is basically setting a new contact in the device and identifying it as ICE + their name. Add their relationship to the senior and all their methods of contact, such as cell number, home number, email address, twitter name, Facebook contact or any other means to access that person.
It is also helpful to include a few notes about our loved one’s medical history, such as a link to their medication list, allergy list, key points of medical history and any advance directives.
If a smartphone is password protected, it can be set up so an alert will appear on the lock screen and thus be accessible to emergency providers. It will only prompt them with the ICE contact information and does not give full access to the smartphone.
Backup Emergency Contact
Experts recommend you add two ICE contacts in case one is not available. Be sure to designate who should be contacted first with the ICE1 + name or ICE2 + name for the second point of contact.
Ideally the contact is someone nearby who is aware of the needs and history of the senior, such as spouse, child, etc.
We recommend you check out this reference guide for setting up ICE contacts: The Backup Plan ICE – My Phone Kit by Laura Greenwald and Janet Greenwald.
You can download a recognized icon to add to their contact information and wallet cards with information to keep handy ICE through this book and website.
Benefits of Preparedness
Family caregivers and seniors who are prepared will be able to deal with a disaster with a reduced amount of fear and anxiety.
You will have a plan established, know on whom you can count to help your senior through a disaster or emergency, and even have prepared the home to reduce any damage that might occur.
Having a plan, getting prepared and creating a network will help your seniors feel as confident as possible during an emergency, which will help prevent detrimental lasting effects.
Disasters have long term effects for seniors and the communities in which they live, so having a plan can help improve the outcomes our seniors experience.