Disasters often strike without warning, and may mean evacuating your home or being confined to your residence without utilities or access to necessary services. Preparing for disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods can be challenging even without the extra responsibility of caring for an aging loved one. If you are the primary source of support for an elderly parent or other family member, here are some tips for caregivers for how to prepare for a natural disaster.

Preparing for disasters: survival kit

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that seniors and others have a disaster kit on hand at all times so they are always prepared for a disaster. The disaster kit should contain everything necessary to survive for a recommend three days at a minimum. The disaster kit should contain the following items:

  • A clean water supply of at least one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Non-perishable food plus a can opener if your kit contains canned goods.
  • A battery powered radio with extra batteries.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • First aid kit including a supply of any medications you take on a daily basis.
  • Food, water, and supplies for any pet or service animal.
  • Sanitation supplies such as moist towelettes and plastic garbage bags.
  • A whistle to signal for help.
  • Cash and coins
  • A sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person.
  • A change of clothes for each person.

The Red Cross also recommends that you prepare a folder with important information and documents that you can easily grab to bring with you if you must evacuate. Keep it in a prominent location in your home so any first responders can easily locate it. The folder should include:

  • A medication list with contact information for your health care providers.
  • Copies of your insurance information and other important documents such as birth certificates, deeds, and other documents you may need.

Preparing for disasters: making a disaster plan

The FEMA guide has the following tips for caregivers as they create a plan for handling disaster situations:

  • Create a list of people, a support network, who can help in an emergency and include their contact information. Make sure everyone on the list has a copy, and put a copy in your loved one’s wallet or purse. Make sure at least one person in your support network has a key to your home or your loved one’s home and knows where to find the disaster kit.
  • Know where you will shelter if there is an evacuation order. Be sure to consider whether shelters open to the public will meet your needs. You may want to make alternate arrangements with other friends or family members to shelter with them when possible.
  • Have a family communication plan in place so that there is one point of contact in disaster situations. It is often best to choose an out-of-town person to be the contact point than someone in the same area as the natural disaster; it is usually easier to get through on a long distance call than a call to a local disaster area.
  • Figure out the best escape route from your home and from your neighborhood. Make sure your loved ones practice their escape routes.

Preparing for disasters: maintaining your preparedness

Once you’ve prepared your survival kit and made a plan preparing for disasters, the Red Cross offers the following tips for caregivers:

  • Every six months, review your disaster plan with everyone in your family and support network. Make sure all information is up to date. Check the supplies in your disaster kit and discard any expired items. Have an “emergency drill” to make sure your disaster plan still works for everyone involved.
  • Once a year, make sure to replace the batteries in your emergency devices. Go over your disaster folder to make sure medications, insurance information, and provider contact information is complete and up to date.

FEMA stresses that the most important part of how to prepare for a disaster is to make sure you are always informed and aware of any potential hazards that may affect your loved one. Follow any recommendations from local authorities about whether to evacuate or shelter in place.

Need more tips for caregivers in disaster situations?

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