It’s always important to be prepared for disaster, but if you or a loved one has a chronic illness, you’ll need to take some extra steps to ensure safety if things go south. Chronic illnesses can include heart disease, autoimmune conditions, cancer, diabetes and the many mental health conditions which are often the product or exacerbated by coping with a changing world engulfed in chaos.
Even if you and your family survive a disaster scenario, the likelihood of developing a chronic condition is high. This is backed up by statistics:
- About 60% of Americans have one or more chronic diseases.
- Chronic stress, such as the type of stress you might encounter during post-disaster world, contribute significantly to the development and progress of chronic diseases.
- As people age (even in a world without immediate disaster), 95% of senior citizen healthcare costs are attributed to chronic issues.
Long-term survival means knowing how to treat and manage chronic illness properly, as it is a possible eventuality for you and your family — even if you aren’t affected now.
Additionally, it’s possible to encounter injuries after an event. From a simple accidental cut with a kitchen knife to a broken ankle, injuries happen, and you’ll need the right supplies to deal with them before they lead to the development of chronic conditions.
Community Relationships and Health Centers
Immediately following a disaster, it’s likely that you and your family will be holed up in your home for some time. In this time, however, it’s necessary for community members to help each other. Undoubtedly, a community treatment area or medical center will be part of this set up.
Until then, community health centers are the places to go to learn basic emergency medical information from nurses who understand how to cope with tragedies, illnesses, and injuries. Check out your local community clinic and inquire about disaster preparedness resources available to you.
Additionally, understand the specific needs your body has, as well as those of any household member with a chronic illness, and always take preventive health measures. If a family member gives themselves insulin shots, learn everything you can about their routine in case of an emergency.
As you brush up on your knowledge, focus on learning about how each person can react differently to injuries, disease progression, medication, and various recovery conditions. In the instance of concussions (as well as other diseases and illnesses), effects of various conditions can vary significantly by age.
It can be particularly difficult to anticipate how children will react to different injuries and conditions. A notable example is concussions: Young people can have drastically different experiences when recovering from such injuries, and there isn’t much literature on the matter to serve as guidance. For this reason, it’s important to take an individualized approach when assessing and treating children.
Tailor Your Prepping Plans to Your Present and Future Health Needs
When prepping and planning, it’s important to consider both your family’s current needs and how you how they will be cared for in a disaster scenario. Understand the basics of wilderness living, including the need to manage supplies and the understanding emergency care procedures. Some aspects to consider include:
- Defense: Are you able to physically defend yourself currently? Would you be able to do so if you became injured? For instance, firing a shotgun as an able-bodied person is a different experience than doing it with a shoulder injury.
- Medication: What medications do you take currently? Know what happens to your body if you have to go without those medications (read up on it — don’t stop taking your meds). Understand the signs and symptoms of your condition in the event of rationing during a catastrophe. Know how long your medication lasts, when it expires, and how much you can keep on stock. Insulin is a special case, as it must be refrigerated and has a short shelf life. What’s your plan to help a diabetic family member?
- Dietary needs: Many chronic illness sufferers require special diets to stay healthy. Make sure your household is aware of those diets. Stockpile any food on your list that will keep, and have a plan to acquire more.
Additionally, don’t forget about what happens when there are more people than resources: People will covet valuable things. That includes medication to treat chronic illnesses and, eventually, basics like aspirin, ibuprofen, and even bandages. Stock up and prepare to defend your supply.
Stress and Mental Health During a Disaster
Mental health conditions naturally arise in the face of ongoing crises. In addition to worsening most physical conditions, stress and trauma exposure can induce the development of mental health issues or worsen existing conditions.
You’ll want to stay calm, rational, and decisive during these trying times and ensure your family is prepared to do the same. Having a disaster plan itself can reduce some of the stress and anxiety. If something bad happens, your family will know where to go and what to do, which puts you ahead of most other people.
To finish off your list, don’t forget to speak with your healthcare provider; share your preparedness list with friends; write down your conditions, immunizations and medication doses and store it with your meds; add a sleep aid to your medical kit; and make sure you have a waterproofed medical kit with medication in plastic bags in the event of a hurricane or sudden evacuation during inclement weather.
Knowing your disease and actively incorporating it into your disaster plan is the best way to increase your chances for success and survival. Make sure to review your plan with your family quarterly, auditing and revising for any new medical conditions or concerns.
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.