May is Older Americans Month – a great time for older adults and caregivers to think about preparing for a disaster. Most older Georgians are able to age in place in their homes and communities due to increased support from organizations such as Area Agencies on Aging. Many are in good health, but some may have slower reflexes, hearing or vision loss, or difficulty walking. Whatever the circumstance, older adults can take responsibility now to prepare for their specific needs during a disaster. By taking a few simple steps, older adults can be ready for the unexpected.
Prepare a kit. Basic supplies will allow you to survive on your own for up to 72 hours following a disaster. Customize your kit by including items specific to your needs:
- Store at least one gallon of water per person per day. Dehydration is a serious health problem for older adults. Use small containers with easily removable caps.
- Have a three-day supply of nonperishable food, with consideration given to your special dietary needs.
- Talk to your doctor about prescribing an extra month of medication so you can keep the medication in your kit. Rotate the medication out monthly to avoid expiration.
- Include nonprescription medications that you use daily.
- Include a personal medical history.
- Keep an extra pair of eyeglasses and hearing aid batteries in your kit.
- If you use an electrical device (i.e., a wheelchair), have a manual device or extra batteries on hand.
- Have an emergency contact person who lives in a different geographic area. Give that person a list of names, phone numbers and email addresses of people who should be contacted; provide your support network with your out-of-area contact information as well.
- Put copies of your important papers in a waterproof container. These should include insurance policies, bank account and credit card information, Medicare and/or Medicaid cards, Living Will and Power of Attorney documents.
Make a plan. Your plan should include how to safely shelter in place, as well as a way to evacuate if the need arises. It should also include information on how to meet your medical or prescription needs if the resources you use regularly become limited or unavailable. If you rely upon services such as a home health nurse or aide, create an alternative plan to get the help you need if these services are disrupted. Create a support network of trusted neighbors, family and friends. Communicate your plan and your needs with this network so they can be ready to assist during a disaster.
Stay informed. One of the best ways to stay informed about disasters in your community is through a battery-powered weather radio. Adaptive devices for individuals who would benefit from visual or other sensory alerts can be added to the radios to ensure that everyone will receive notification of the emergency alert.
For more information on staying informed, creating a plan, or creating a disaster kit specifically for an older adult or a person with a disability, visit www.ready.ga.gov. For information on aging services available in your area, call 1-866-55-Aging. To schedule a Ready Georgia presentation at a senior citizens home, contact your local emergency management agency or the Ready Georgia campaign.
Photo Credit: Light House Faith