After Hurricane Ian last year, we introduced you to Stan and Mary. Stan and Mary lived in a high-rise in Florida when the hurricane hit. Although they were in an evacuation zone, everyone thought they would be safe because the staff in their building was top-notch, plus it was built to withstand hurricane-force winds. However, what they and most people did not consider is what would happen if the power went out for long periods of time? What would happen if staff could not make it to the building due to storm damage?
As an adult child, it is essential for you to proactively prepare for potential disasters like hurricanes, heat waves, flooding and blizzards. This is especially true if you have recently noticed a parent or loved one displaying dementia-like symptoms. Here are five real-life situations for you to consider when preparing for any natural disaster.
Power Outages and Medical Equipment
Power outages can pose significant challenges for seniors who rely on medical equipment like scooters, lift chairs, CPAP machines, or even something simple like hearing aids, which use rechargeable batteries. Does your family member use electrical medical devices? Do they have alternative methods of using or charging their equipment? Do they actually know how to use alternative methods? Investing in a portable generator or a battery backup system is only good if they know where it is and how to use it.
Ensuring Food and Water Supply
After Hurricane Ian, I met Joan*, age 76, and her daughter Michelle* on the 13th floor of an over-55 community in Naples. When I met them, they had just begun the long trek from the fourteenth floor to the first floor via the stairs because the elevator was out. It was obvious the stress of the situation had overwhelmed them both. After one flight of stairs, Joan gave up. She had a broken foot (in a boot) and was tired and wanted to go back upstairs. Michelle knew they needed to either go all the way to the first floor to get food and medical supplies or go back up one flight to wait it out. Her mom, who had undiagnosed cognitive decline, could not understand why Michelle was adamant they had to continue down more stairs.
Temperature Control and Electric Shutters
Susan's* home had electric storm shutters to protect her windows. They worked effectively during the storm. However, the building lost power, and the generator system was flooded. This meant there was no electricity, and she could not open any windows to get airflow into the apartment. Her lovely home with all its amenities became a hotbox, which could have easily caused heat exhaustion.
Assess Your Loved One's Cognitive Ability
If you have ever wondered if your loved one may be experiencing cognitive decline, now is the time to assess their cognitive level. Here are some simple things for you to consider and questions you can ask to determine if they are able to remain in their home. What would you do if there was a fire? Can your loved one tell you what they would do, and is it the right thing? Would they call 911? Would they leave the house? Can your loved one hear a fire alarm, or do they know what a fire alarm means? I had a client who lived alone, but his family decided to move him into a memory care community because his cognitive ability declined to the point where he did not know what a fire alarm sounded like. Do they ever confuse the telephone and the television remote control? In times of emergency, this is a big problem. The last thing you would want is for your mom or dad to try to call for help using the television remote. Do they rely on medication support from someone who may not be able to get to them in a storm or emergency? If they have an automatic pill dispenser or an aide that provides medical care, what will happen if the aide is unable to get to their home? Would they know the right medication to take, and would they remember to do it?
Proactive planning is key to ensuring your loved one's safety. Now is the time to create a comprehensive emergency plan with essential contact information for healthcare providers, emergency services, and neighbors who can offer assistance. Compile copies of important documents like medical records, insurance information, and identification papers in a secure location. Sharing them with appropriate people via Google Drive, One Drive, or Dropbox can make it much easier for everyone. Establish regular communication protocols and ensure your loved one understands the plan and their role in it.
If you do not think your loved one would know how to manage in an emergency situation, it is time for you to act. Information is always important. You can read this article to learn more about how Senior Living Providers plan for emergency situations: https://www.seniorcare-nyfl.com/elder-care-and-senior-living-blog/how-senior-living-communities-prepare-for-natural-disasters-1667516343701.html. We find most families do not understand how communities prepare and all the work they do to make sure your loved one gets the best care possible. We are here to answer any questions you have and can help you create a disaster preparedness plan for you and your loved one. We can also help you after the disaster by finding short-term accommodations until things are back in order.
*Names have changed to protect our client’s privacy.