Senior 911: Local Senior-Care Company Says Advance Planning Can Help Safeguard Older Adults from Disaster

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Hurricanes and natural disasters disproportionately threaten older adults who aren't prepared for the sudden disruptions that they can cause. Seniors and their families need to take ten critical steps today to ensure that they are prepared in case of emergency.

The local telephone lines often are overloaded in a disaster

Spring and summer often bring volatile weather that threatens lives and property. Older adults can be among the most vulnerable victims when disasters strike, according to the local senior-care company Home Instead Senior Care.

"At the local level, we know that a disaster can be deadly for some seniors because of physical and other limitations," according to Marge Thompson, co-owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Brevard County.

"That's why the sooner the better for families to talk with their senior loved ones and begin preparing in advance for any kind of emergency that could threaten their health or safety."

Family caregivers play a critical role in this process, said Thompson. "The main thing for seniors and families to do right away is assess what the senior would need in the event of a disaster. If someone requires additional assistance they should identify a team - a personal support network - such as neighbors, friends, relatives and professional caregivers who will help," she said. Home Instead Senior Care hires CAREGivers who go into seniors' homes to help keep them independent as well as assist them in a time of crisis.

"Seniors and their family caregivers should organize a plan around every place they might be during the day or week, such as a library or community center, when a disaster could strike," she noted.

Communication after a disaster is another vital component of such a plan. "The local telephone lines often are overloaded in a disaster," Thompson said, "but long-distance lines may be working. Seniors should always have an out-of-town contact number available to call after a disaster to let someone know they are O.K."

10 Ways to Help Seniors Prepare for Disaster

Following are 10 ways that seniors, their families and caregivers can prepare for a natural disaster, according to Home Instead Senior Care.

1. Tune in. Stay abreast of what's going on in your area through your local radio or television. Know where to get information during an emergency, either through the local television, radio or NOAA weather radio. Make sure that a senior who is hearing- or vision-impaired has the proper tools to be notified of a disaster.

2. Take stock. Decide what your senior can or can't do in the event of a natural disaster. Make a list of what would be needed for that individual if a disaster occurred. For example, if your loved one is wheelchair-bound, where would that individual go to take shelter and how would that person get out if evacuation was ordered. Make sure you prepare for whatever disaster could hit the area.

3. To go or to stay? When deciding to evacuate, older adults should go sooner rather than later. By waiting too long, they may be unable to leave if they require assistance from others.

4. Make a plan. Schedule a family meeting to develop a plan of action. Include in your plan key people - such as neighbors, friends, relatives and professional caregivers - who could help.

5. More than one way out. Like all families and households, seniors should develop at least two escape routes, one out of their home in case of a fire when they need to get out of the home quickly and out of the area in case they need to evacuate their community. (The local emergency management office can tell you escape routes out of the community.)

6. Meet up. Designate a place to meet other relatives or key support network people outside the house, as well as a second location outside the neighborhood, such as a school or church. Practice the plan at least twice a year. This is important in case you get separated. Select long-distance family or friends to call in case of major disaster/evacuation, where a local meeting place is not possible (such as what happened after Hurricane Katrina).

7. Get up and "Go Kit." Have an easy-to-carry backpack including three days non-perishable food and water with an additional four days of food and water readily accessible at home. Have at least one gallon of water per person per day. Bottled water may be easier to store and carry. Refresh and replace your supplies at least twice a year. And don't forget the blanket and paper products such as toilet paper.

8. Pack extras and copies. Have at least a one-month supply of medication on hand at all times. Make ready other important documents in a water-proof protector including copies of prescriptions, car title registration and driver's license, insurance documents and bank account numbers, and spare checkbook. Also take extra eye glasses and hearing-aid batteries. Label every piece of important equipment or personal item in case they are lost.

9. Your contact list. Compile a contact list and include people on a senior's support network as well as doctors and other important health-care professionals.

10. Professional help. Call a professional CAREGiver if you or your loved one needs extra help. If a senior needs assistance and you can't be there, or find a Home Instead Senior Care office nearest your loved one by logging on to

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
For more information about advance disaster preparations, download the Federal Emergency Management Agency publication "Are You Ready?" or visit their "Be Ready" campaign.

Home Instead Senior Care
For more information about local CAREGivers and how they could help in a crisis, call your Home Instead Senior Care office or, for more about the company, visit

For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact Dan Wieberg, Public Relations Manager at 888-484-5759, email or visit


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