This is Only a Test: Seniors and Emergency Preparedness Month

As baby boomers with aging loved ones we tend to revisit the idea of an emergency from a different perspective. Not only have natural disasters become more prominent in daily news, we also have different needs to consider beyond backup batteries and a stash of drinking water. September is National Preparedness Month and the 2014 theme is “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare.” While we may be more and more disaster aware, we could all use support in taking geographic and age specific precautions.  

The Digital Age

Some of the most important documents that we own are often stored in vulnerable places. If your home and files were destroyed in a fire or natural disaster, would you have access to them somewhere else? Technology has offered us more backup solutions and redundancy in cloud-based and digital storage. Here are a few documents to consider protecting through uploading to cloud storage:

  • Will/ Trust documentation
  • Health records including current medications and dosages
  • Durable Power of Attorney, POLST, Advance Directives
  • Important contacts of care professionals, specialists, and doctors
  • Copies of personal identification documents such as social security card, birth certificate, driver’s license or identification card, passport, military ID, passport
  • Proof of health insurance and plan number 
  • Past tax filings
  • Copy of utility bill with current address
  • Death certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree and/or spousal-support order
  • Bank account/ safe deposit box inventory/ credit card information
  • Computer/ online accounts and social media passwords
  • Deeds to property
  • Education records/ certificates
  • Household Inventory and values of items for insurance claim purposes.

Senior Emergency Kit

Different types of emergencies call for different types of preparation. While a power outage may call us to draw on our supply of drinking water and canned food, a forest fire or flood may cause us to leave our homes in a hurry. For aging adults, it is crucial to store a home emergency kit as well as a mobile version to ensure you can grab life sustaining necessities in an evacuation without wasting time. A typical home emergency kit has 1 weeks’ worth of nonperishable food and potable water as well as usual extras like candles, matches, batteries, blankets, battery powered radio, scissors, change of clothing, etc.   

In your mobile senior emergency kit consider keeping:

  • Copies of personal identifying documents, emergency contacts, and important health documentation such as current medical conditions, medications and dosages and physician names and contacts (Keep a digital version on a USB flashdrive for emergency services.)
  • At least 3 days’ worth of extra medications in their original bottles
  • Extra medical equipment such as adult diapers, hearing aid batteries, test strips, extra glasses, cane, etc.
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Small amount of cash
  • Cell phone charger/ extra battery
  • Bottled water and energy bars

Caring for the Mind

During an emergency we typically think of filling out kits with the basics as mentioned above, but we often forget to care for our minds and emotions. During an emergency we can often experience long periods of waiting and isolation without our usual comforts and a heightened sense of stress. Include a few items to keep busy and calm during a disaster. This might be a book of word puzzles, a book, copies of calming texts like Psalms, quotes, or poems, or a favorite craft to keep your hands moving. Once you and your loved ones are safe, remember to attend to other aspects of your well-being.

Aging in Place

As adult children, we think about our parents’ safety often. Are they safe in their home? Should they still be driving? Are they taking their medications properly? Maintaining safety in the home during a natural disaster or emergency is a crucial part of planning to aging in place. If you have aging parents, talk with them about your emergency kits and ask if they would like help preparing their own. Replenishing expired items can be just as important as including specialized items for seniors. Especially if you live in another part of the country, talk openly with your parents about the risks of natural disaster specific to their area and know their plans should something happen. Having a communication plan and digital access to their important documents is also a good idea. Fortunately, this is only a test. In the words of the old saying, “[Let’s] hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.” 

Published on September 4, 2014.