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Boosting Disaster Resilience Among Senior Populations

Natural disasters can come out of seemingly nowhere. Whether it is a blizzard, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or extreme heatwave, if you and your family are not adequately prepared things could go from bad to worse. For that reason, keeping a plan of what to do if the worst happens at all times is important.

It may come as somewhat of a surprise if you haven’t thought about it much, but older adults — those age 65 and up — are especially vulnerable to natural disasters. In fact, a disproportionate number of deaths and injuries from natural disasters occur in this population. In the United States, most older adults are unprepared for an emergency situation because of factors such as social isolation, chronic health problems, or functional limitations that hamper their ability to evacuate.

Taking steps to help prepare our seniors for any sort of natural disaster or doomsday situation is our responsibility. After all, nobody wants to have to leave their parents or grandparents behind in an emergency situation. What can caregivers, health departments, and family members do to make a difference before disaster strikes?

Current Trends

A growing percentage of the population in the United States today is over the age of 65. The actual number is expected to reach nearly 25% in the next few decades as more and more baby boomers reach retirement age. Ultimately, this means that a greater percentage of people are going to be at serious risk when a natural disaster strikes in their area.

Sadly, in some parts of the United States, this is already playing itself out. We’ve all heard of the terrible conditions that the people of Puerto Rico have been facing since Hurricane Maria, but the appalling thing is how severe some of these conditions have been for senior populations. Older people who are unable to keep up with and take care of everyday tasks under normal circumstances would not survive without the help of their relatives every single day.

Unfortunately for many elderly people, family members do not live nearby or they are dependent on designated caregivers in facilities for the help they’ll need in emergency situations. In order to best prepare, most disaster-ready caregivers will create an emergency checklist that will help them ensure they have all the necessary supplies to care for a senior given the worst.  

Preparing for the Worst

There are a number of steps that can be taken to help your elderly family member prepare for an unexpected disaster should one arise. First and foremost, have them create a list of things they need on a daily basis that will be necessary to put into an emergency kit. From there, you can help them get their kit together and ready for them to take with them in a snap.

Probably one of the most critical things to make sure they have within their kit is essential medicine. In a doomsday situation, they are not going to be able to stop by a drugstore and get their prescription filled for a month, so having a backup, emergency supply is critical. Ask your senior relatives what medical issues they have. For example, ask if they have thyroid issues and know the signs, and what their treatment is.

It can also be valuable to choose your evacuation location with a senior in mind. If your family member lives too far away to join you, do your best to help them create a safe place for themselves. Perhaps look into renewable energy sources that are low maintenance and will help them survive in place during a natural disaster in which the power grid fails.

Creating a Plan of Action

Finally, make sure you have a kit together with all of the necessary things you senior will need in an emergency situation and a safe place for them to hide out. The next step is to come up with a plan that everyone can implement quickly and easily if necessary. The Centers for Disease Control suggests creating a plan that may draw upon those surrounding your elderly loved one including their neighbors and friends.

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For example, if you are not going to be able to help your grandma in an emergency situation, then communicate with someone who lives near her about checking in. Make sure grandma and that person are on the same page and know to expect someone to stop by, a phone call, or some other signal that everything is okay. Keeping a list of contacts and check-in plans within their emergency kit can also be beneficial.

When an emergency does strike, make sure that your relative knows where they need to go and how they are going to get there. Should they be planning on someone to pick them up and take them? Or is the plan for them to be self-sufficient enough to get themselves and their emergency kit to a designated rendezvous point? What is the backup plan if that place is no longer an option?

Senior populations are likely to face the most struggle in an emergency or doomsday situation. Because of this, it is critical to help them get prepared both within their home if they will have an extended stay, and with a plan to get out if they need to leave. Creating an emergency kit with all necessary medications, supplies, and instructions and making sure everyone understands the emergency plan are good places to start.


About the Author: Magnolia Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book. 

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