Why It’s Important to Prepare Elderly Loved Ones for Emergencies


Louisiana officials recently revoked the licenses of seven nursing homes that evacuated patients to a warehouse where seven of them died ahead of Hurricane Ida’s landfall.

Hurricane Katrina should have been the warning shot when it comes to emergency preparedness. Still, many “homes” skirt regulations and often cite small budgets as a reason they cannot fully implement recommended emergency procedures.

Choosing Care – Make Emergency Preparedness an Item on Your Checklist

Families have many things to consider when choosing care for a loved one. Certainly, in this new age, questions such as vaccination rates among staff and mandatory vaccinations are on the table. In light of the increased frequency of dangerous storms, it is important to consider emergency preparedness as an item to evaluate when choosing a place and further knowing your rights around these issues.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Does the facility have an emergency plan in writing that you can review?
  • Are staff and residents trained for the plan and how often is it updated?
  • Is the facility in a flood or fire zone?
  • How is the plan communicated to residents and families?
  • Ask to see state inspection reports for emergency preparedness.
  • What is their shelter-in-place plan? How do they handle power outages, temperature fluctuations, oxygen and life support systems, medication refrigeration?
  • What is their evacuation plan? Where will they go? How will they get there?

Evaluate Your Own Preparedness

During an emergency, a facility may ask you to come and get mom and dad. Are you nearby? Can you transport them safely? Is your home equipped for short-term living situations?

Create Your Own Disaster Plan and Supply Kit for a Loved One

One of the most vital aspects of preparing a plan is knowing how you will communicate with a loved one. What if the Wi-Fi and cellular is out? Consider emergency monitoring systems that incorporate Z-Wave or ZigBee.

Z-Wave is transmitted from smart devices directly to the system’s hubrather than using a modem; no Internet or router needed. Gather important phone numbers – family, friends, churches, shelters, aid organizations, care team members.

If mom or dad will be stuck in their room or evacuated, do they have the supplies they need? These include prescription medications, durable medical equipment, mobility aids, visual and hearing aids, and personal health and sanitation supplies. Legal, personal and health information such as advance directives, powers of attorney, etc. should be copied and included in any disaster kit too.

Have a Recovery Plan Too

Once the disaster is over, it can leave scars – mental and emotional, physical and financial. A loved one could suffer PTSD. Be aware and seek the appropriate help.

Consider renter’s insurance. Most senior living communities do not insure small possessions against loss because of natural disasters and similar circumstances. Purchasing your own insurance ensures that you are protected.

Beware of Opportunists and Scams

This is when scammers come out of the woodwork to prey on vulnerable people. The FCC offers this advice:

  • Scammers use phone, text, mail, email, and even go door-to-door to target residents. Officials with government disaster assistance agencies do not call or text asking for financial account information. Anyone claiming to be a federal official who asks for money is an imposter.
  • Phone scams often use spoofing techniques to deliberately falsify the information transmitted to your caller ID to make the call appear official. Of course, don’t give out any personal information or agree to any payment until you can independently verify that the call is legitimate.
  • Contractors and home improvement companies may also call claiming to be partners with your insurance provider.
  • Be aware of scammers posing as representatives of charities seeking donations for disaster relief. If you have doubts, you can check with Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • To report suspected fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-720-5721.

Half of the deaths from Katrina were older adults over 75. The majority of deaths in a heat wave are older adults and those 85+ are four times more likely to die in a wildfire.

With these disasters coming more frequently, it pays to plan.

What emergency plan have you set up for yourself in case of natural disasters? Have you set one up for older relatives/friends? Have you been through natural disasters? What was left in their aftermath?

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