Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst: Hurricane Preparedness for Seniors
Hurricane season is upon us, and for seniors and caregivers, this can be a particularly stressful time as we wonder how best to handle a potential storm. I have been in the senior care business for close to 30 years, and have learned best practices for seniors and their families as they plan for these trying months. Preparing for the “what ifs” helps seniors stay focused and calm by removing some of the confusion that accompanies hurricanes and tropical storms.
Seniors, whether living alone or in an assisted living community, should always make a plan, create a readiness kit and stay informed throughout hurricane season. Seniors living at home must work with their families and caregivers to understand the best course of action based on the severity and time of the storm. By asking your family difficult and even frightening “what if” questions ahead of time, you can ensure all stay safe in worst case scenarios.
Seniors living in a community should behave similarly but take into account their community may have a plan in place. Don’t be afraid to ask about details. At Notre Dame Health System, we have a fully equipped medical evacuation facility in Bunkie, Louisiana. It is complete with 400 beds, nursing stations, internet service, communications links, physical therapy equipment and a commercial kitchen to serve hot meals.
Once all know their destination and arrival plan, it is time to create a readiness kit. Items in your readiness kit, according to FEMA, should include, but are not limited to, the following items:
- One gallon of water per day. Electrolyte beverages also are a good source of hydration.
- Nonperishable/ready-to-eat food, preferably rich in B12 vitamin and low in sodium. Vitamin supplements can help prevent nutritional deficiencies.
- Blankets, extra clothing and comfortable shoes.
- Spare eyeglasses, catheters, batteries, oxygen systems, etc.
- Phone and phone charger for communication.
- A battery-powered radio and/or a NOAA weather radio.
- A solar or battery-operated flashlight.
- A whistle to call for help and a small mirror to reflect sunlight in case you must signal rescue teams.
- An emergency-contact list to reach family and friends and/or a list of assisted living contacts.
- Cash, since access to banks and ATMs may be limited.
- First-aid kit, medical insurance and Medicaid/Medicare cards.
- Prescription medicines and copies of prescriptions that can be refilled for up to six months.
- Medical-alert tags or bracelets with information about healthcare needs.
- Copies of family records and other important documents such as birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, passports, wills, deeds, and financial, insurance and immunizations records in a sealed, waterproof bag.
The last part of any senior preparedness plan is to stay informed. Caregivers and seniors must stay up-to-date on all abnormal weather conditions, as well as governmental updates before, during and after a storm. Keeping up with the news (even before a hurricane strikes) will increase the dialogue with family or community to help all feel more confident about any course of action. Many news stations and government entities have phone applications and email systems that will provide notifications about weather alerts.
In my experience, staying home during a serious storm is not worth the gamble. Even if your house is strong, it is safer to completely remove yourself from the line of the storm. By staying, you put yourself at serious risk for injury and even death, and it is important for seniors and their families to understand this reality. Evacuating can save you and your loved one’s lives; staying home can only save a few hours of driving.
Be proactive this hurricane season with a plan, a kit and information.
Wayne R. Plaisance, CPA, NFA
Wayne Plaisance is the president and CEO of Notre Dame Health System, a ministry of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He has been with the Archdiocese for over 15 years. Notre Dame Health System provides healthcare services including independent care, assisted living, long-term care, rehabilitation, memory care, home care and hospice care, and is comprised of Chateau de Notre Dame, Notre Dame Home Care, Notre Dame Hospice, Our Lady of Wisdom and Wynhoven Health Care Center.
Plaisance is a licensed Nursing Facility Administrator, as well as a Certified Public Accountant. He has previously held leadership positions with Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and Ollie Steele Burden Manor in Baton Rouge. Plaisance currently serves on the board of St. Anthony’s Gardens.