After a Natural Disaster Strikes — What Family Caregivers Can Do

Summer storm and hurricane season is upon us.

Now is the time for family caregivers to begin getting their plans in place to help their senior loved ones weather the storm and pick up after a disaster.

Natural disasters include events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or earthquakes that can cause great damage and even loss of life. We are also seeing widespread wildfires and even volcano eruptions that are causing homelessness. Falling trees, heat stroke, freezing, belongings being washed away or worse are some of the consequences of a natural disaster.

All natural disasters cause some type of loss. For older adults, much can be lost after a natural disaster that is currently allowing a senior to live independently, such as the help of a nearby family caregiver, access to medical care, adequate nutrition, safe housing, and getting medications.

When these lifelines are lost, even temporarily, a senior can be in real trouble physically, financially, and emotionally.

Seniors Struggle After a Disaster

Senior’s are affected more drastically than younger people following a disaster because, according to the National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER), they have fewer private resources to recover after a natural disaster.

Almost 80% of older adults own their own home. After a disaster, they must rebuild or repair their home. Sometimes they must find another place to live if the home is unlivable and until it can be made whole again.

Oftentimes, disabilities of age can inhibit seniors from participating in both the clean-up and the repair of their own homes.

Financially, the cost of this recovery could be out of their reach.

Another obstacle for seniors is the need to use technology to get the help they need from recovery programs. Their access to technology, hearing loss, and cognitive impairment are all obstacles.

Family caregivers can and may have to help older adults in the aftermath of a natural disaster so we want to share some tips to help you in the recovery process.

Resources for Recovery

There are a variety of sources that can help family caregivers and senior loved ones access the help they need after a natural disaster to help them recover, hopefully without losing even more, including their homes.

Caregivers may have to facilitate many of these interventions, so having the proper documentation will be essential for you to act on their behalf. You may want to collect it now and keep a copy safe in an emergency.

  1. Private insurance (medical, flood, auto, and homeowners); be sure to follow directions for filing and meet the expressed deadline dates; this can be done over the phone or online
  2. Federal, state, and local assistance (FEMA if the Governor and President have declared the disaster)
  3. Non-profit organizations or governmental aid agencies (HUD, homeowners assistance programs, faith-based relief)
  4. Mortgage relief because, while your senior is still responsible for payment of the loan, there may be adjusted payment plans or grace periods granted which reduce or suspend payments for up to six months after talking with a loan servicer
  5. Debt relief
  6. Personal resources

Tips for Getting the Help You Both Need

First, ensure your senior made it through the disaster uninjured!

Before your senior’s home suffers more damage, secure any property that might be impacted in the aftermath of the disaster, such as boarding broken windows or tarping a damaged roof against more rain.

Have a list of possessions cataloged before a disaster. Using a smartphone to take pictures or even video of each room is recommended. After a disaster, this can help generate a list of missing or damaged items for loss recovery.

Keep a list of any expenses incurred, such as rental car or hotel fees for claims. Ensure all receipts are retained.

If the disaster is a FEMA covered event, generally you and your senior will have 60 days to apply for assistance. This can be done at or by calling 1-800-621- FEMA (3362).

Caregivers may want to photograph important information, including all insurance cards, and upload to a cloud server so that the information can be obtained after the disaster.

There can be a 90-day moratorium placed on any foreclosure activities by the mortgage holder after a natural disaster. This could protect seniors from foreclosure or eviction if the mortgage isn’t paid on time.

If your senior needs legal help after a natural disaster, caregivers can contact the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center.

If flood insurance is needed to protect your senior’s home from the next disaster, you can contact for more information or to purchase flood insurance. FEMA will only cover costs of home repair for one flood event.

Have a first aid kit and disaster plan ready to go before disaster strikes. Check out
Disasters Can Strike Anytime – Ensure Senior Loved Ones are Prepared and First Aid Kit Essentials for the Homes of Senior Loved Ones to learn more about preparation to keep your senior safe.

Advance planning and preparedness won’t stop the next disaster from occurring but it will help caregivers manage a successful recovery and improve the likelihood that seniors can continue to age in place.