Six Seniors Lost Their Lives in Recent Fires - Emergency Preparedness for Seniors is a Must

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VillagePlan releases tips on keeping Seniors safe during emergencies as a result of recent tragedies in the California fires.

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“Hesitation to leave their homes may have been one of the major issues contributing to the sad deaths of these individuals” says Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC of VillagePlan.

Two massive fires roared over the State of California in the past few weeks. Six adults over the age of 65 lost their lives and more could be discovered as the clean-up continues. Between the Valley Fire near Clearlake and the Butte Fire near Jamestown over 1,000 homes were destroyed. Hearing some of the first-hand stories from survivors help to understand how minutes, even seconds, counted in their survival – many having to be very creative and act quickly to save their own lives.

“Hesitation to leave their homes may have been one of the major issues contributing to the sad deaths of these individuals who enjoyed the beauty of the area they resided in during their retirement years”, said Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC of VillagePlan. “Some other issues that can contribute to seniors not responding as quickly as they should to warnings of impending danger are deficits in hearing, seeing, and smelling.”

Alzheimer’s or even early dementia known as MCI could impair judgment and increase risk. For families at a distance, having a professional Care Manager to assist with these challenging emergencies often provides peace of mind. These professionals can be found at http://www.VillagePlan.com or http://www.AgingLifeCare.org.

Some of the areas devastated in the fire’s path were rural and hard to reach for emergency crews trying desperately to evacuate individuals in harm’s way. But, if the individual was not able to smell – just seeing the smoke might not have been enough to cause someone who had limited mobility to gather important papers and leave. They have seen smoke in the past and never felt threatened – but this time it was most important.

What can older adults do who live in areas at risk for major fires? First and foremost have at least one or two neighbors they can rely on to assist in a major disaster – fire, earthquake, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Exchange keys and let each other know where you keep your emergency kits. Pledge to one another that “it is best to be safe and listen to emergency personnel.” Yes, it could be a false alarm, but lives can be at risk.

For those who have parents or relatives who are living in the foothills or mountains that are forested, they are always at risk of fire – and especially in drought years. Help them stay prepared with the following tips:
1)    Have a backpack (one with wheels is a good choice) filled with the following: Personal papers (legal and insurance), list of medications, list of important people to contact in an emergency, medical history, and medical providers. Have this list in a secure setting on a smartphone (scan important papers). Also include a good whistle (available at the Red Cross), a flashlight with extra batteries, extra socks, gloves, hat, and a heat shield blanket (these are very lightweight). An emergency hand crank radio that could charge cell phones would be a good addition. Be sure to have an extra pair of glasses and batteries for hearing aids.
Any other personal care product that is of need..

2)    A separate backpack with some food items and a 72-hour water supply, extra medications, and a first aid kit. Be sure to re-stock it every few months – to keep food items and water fresh. A good way to remember to do this is the first day of a new season – first day of fall, winter, spring, summer!

3)    Full tanks of gas in cars – make it a habit of filling up at the half tank mark! Keep an extra pair of shoes in your car, flashlight, emergency kit and water (be sure to change water frequently).

4)    If evacuated, report to the shelter you are directed to – give them your name and address and contact information before driving off to a friend or relative in other areas.

5)    Keep some cash on hand and store it where you can remember – in a safe place.

The American Red Cross has a “Disaster Preparedness Guide for Seniors by Seniors” – download this for more detailed ideas on how to stay safe – http://tinyurl.com/Red-Cross-Senior-Preparedness. Pacific Gas &Electric (PG&E) has a good list of preparing for a disaster, with more information on home safety – http://www.pge.com/en/safety/preparedness/kit/index.page.

Other Excellent Resources -
VillagePlan a national network of experienced professional providers who assist families with the maze of options, challenges and stressors associated with aging. A free 30-minute consultation with one of the “Experts on Call” professionals will help families with tools and resources to bring about a better quality of life. For more information call (888) 585-7579 - http://www.VillagePlan.com

Eldercare Services in Walnut Creek, CA has been providing family education, professional care management/aging life care advocacy and home care in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989. Ask for a complimentary professional assessment at (866) 760-1808 -http://www.EldercareAnswers.com

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Linda Fodrini-Johnson
VillagePlan
+1 925 937-2018
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