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Preparing the Elderly for the Next Big Storm: What You Can Do

Superstorm Sandy’s victims included two toddlers from Staten Island—but the majority of the victims were elderly. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to storms and other natural disasters. While it’s true that the large amount of life experience elderly people have may make some better able to deal with natural disasters, it’s also true that the elderly are more fragile, more likely to be isolated, and more at risk than younger people.

If there’s an elderly person in your life—or if you’re concerned for your own safety in the face of the next big storm—here are a few things you can do.

Stock up on non-perishable food

Man in Storm

The phone number of the person’s doctor, a dependable local friend, and family members should be programmed into the elderly person’s phone—and written down, in case cell service goes out and a landline is the only option.

Have a stash of canned goods in the apartment—foods that can be eaten without cooking or boiling water, and foods that will stay preserved indefinitely. Be sure the elderly person has a manual can opener in the house that is not hard to operate.

See Also: Senior Independent living

Have a contingency plan for losing electricity

If an elderly person you care for relies on equipment powered by electricity—a dialysis machine, for example—you’ll need to prepare for the possibility of losing power. Buy a generator and learn how to operate it—as losing electricity could be a life-or-death situation.

Have a plan for staying warm

Extra blankets, fleeces, hats and gloves, long underwear—these things could make the difference between life and death if you lose heat in the wintertime. Elderly people are more vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures, so it’s essential to have the house well stocked with warm clothes and blankets.

See Also: In Home Care

Stock up on medication

Be sure your loved one has an emergency supply of the medications and other medical items needed, as it’s possible severe storms could limit access to pharmacies.

Have a plan for light

If your elderly loved one loses light, he or she could be at more risk than ever of a severe trip and fall situation. Be sure there is a flashlight and plenty of fresh batteries—candles are a fire hazard—and that they’re in an easily-accessible place—not in the second-floor hall closet if your loved one has trouble navigating the stairs, for instance.

Don’t let an elderly person be alone

If there’s one pattern that can be found among the elderly victims of Hurricane Sandy, it’s that many of them lived alone and did not want to leave their homes when the storm was coming. If you’re concerned about an elderly loved one in the path of a storm, your company could mean the difference between life and death for that person. If you can, stay with them—or bring them to you, depending on whose home is likely to be safest. If you can’t, see if you can find a local friend or neighbor to stay with your loved one or check up on him or her periodically.

Have phone numbers handy

The phone number of the person’s doctor, a dependable local friend, and family members should be programmed into the elderly person’s phone—and written down, in case cell service goes out and a landline is the only option.

The elderly face special challenges in preparing for big storms—and tend to be numerous among the victims of natural disasters. It’s especially important for the elderly not to underestimate the potential effect of storms and other disasters, as they are the most likely to suffer if their predictions are untrue. If you’re worried about a loved one’s level of preparedness, be sure they’re well stocked on medication, canned foods, warm clothes, flashlights, and batteries. Have a contingency plan for where that person will stay in the case of a natural disaster. A support network can increase an elderly person’s chances of surviving the storm—so do your best to make sure your loved one is not at home.