Severe weather, such as blizzards, hurricanes, wildfires, or an outbreak of tornadoes, seems to occur more frequently every year. While this can make it difficult for everyone, it’s crucial for elderly people to be equipped for inclement weather.
If you have aging family members who live on their own, following are some things to think about that will help you prepare them for severe weather.
1. Provide flood protection
Prevention should always be first.
It’s important to make their home as flood-proof as you can. To begin, clean the gutters. A well-maintained gutter system can be a big help in defending the area immediately surrounding your home from damage.
Clogged gutters can lead to many problems such as basement flooding, erosion and ultimately foundation damage.
2. Ensure that they have emergency provisions
Even if you live in the same town, you may not always be able to get to them right away when bad weather strikes. And it might take you a few days before you can personally check on their safety if the weather was really bad, such as if a hurricane caused downed trees and blocked roads.
Make an emergency safety kit so they will have quick access to first aid supplies if they get hurt in bad weather. It should include items such as painkillers, scissors, rolled bandages, etc.
3. Create a communication plan
Think about the various weather-related issues that are likely to arise in your area as well as any associated dangers. For instance, hurricanes can disrupt communications and power for several days, but they are typically well-publicized so that people have time to evacuate if necessary.
Here are some specific items to go over with senior parents when creating your family’s communication plan:
1. Emergency Contacts:
Verify that your family members’ cell phones are set up with emergency contacts. At least one out-of-state contact should be on this list in case local friends and family are unable to help.
Keep a hard copy of this emergency contacts list with your elderly parents in a public location, like on the refrigerator, just in case. You can design wallet inserts as well.
Make sure your contact numbers are listed on your parents’ phones as an ICE (in case of emergency) contact on the emergency contacts list. These numbers need to be set up as a separate contact with the label “ICE.” If your elderly parents become unconscious or sustain injuries, this label can help rescuers quickly contact you.
Set up weather alerts on your phone and your parents’ phones for their location. These alerts can help warn you of impending severe weather and provide you with real-time updates. This is especially helpful when you and your loved one live in different areas.
If any of your loved ones need to take medication, make sure they have enough on hand to last them a few days in case of emergency. Seniors who need to take daily medications should pay special attention to this preparation.
4. Have an evacuation plan
Along with developing a communication strategy, you should also decide where you’ll go if your home needs to be evacuated. Evacuation can be particularly difficult for elderly people with limited mobility.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you draft an evacuation plan for your family.
If your loved one is no longer able to drive, make arrangements in advance for someone to pick them up in the event that they must leave their home. Ensure that person has a list of items that must be packed during an evacuation, such as prescription medication, oxygen or CPAP machines, specialty food, etc.
2. Supply kit:
Help your elderly family members assemble a supply kit with items like water, medications, cash, and other essentials. Include any pets you may have in the plan. Make sure your parents are aware of where the kit is kept and that it is kept in a convenient location in the house.
Pick a place to meet that is not in your neighborhood. This location might be a church, a school, etc. If possible, choose a location with several access points in case some roads become blocked by trees or other obstacles. You should meet there during a last-minute evacuation rather than attempting to call people.
Make sure there is someone in the area who can help your loved one evacuate if they reside in a different state. In a sense, this person would assist your parents on your behalf.
If you live in an area where evacuation is likely, it’s a good idea to conduct two annual drills. Consider shelter-in-place drills to prepare for emergencies at home if evacuation doesn’t seem like a realistic option during severe weather.
Ensure your aging parents are aware of what to do in case of power outages. Winter and summer power outages are common, so it’s crucial that senior citizens understand what to do and what not to do when the power goes out.
For example, prepare for the possibility that your parent(s) may be unable to get to the store by ensuring they have a good selection of non-perishable food items and bottled water on hand.
5. Consider relocation
While this isn’t an option for everyone, you could reduce the chances that your parents will be impacted by bad weather by relocating them to areas that typically have better weather, such as Colorado, Arizona, or Florida.
While it’s not hard to help your loved ones stay safe in bad weather, it does take some thought and preparation. One thing is certain, if your aging parents are living alone and/or far from you, the next time bad weather strikes, you’ll be glad you took the time to prepare for the event and its possible aftermath.