Plan Ahead for How Your Aging Parents Will Handle Emergencies
We never know when an emergency is going to hit. Living in California, earthquakes and fires are our big emergency, however, different parts of the country have different issues from hurricanes to tornadoes. Regardless of the type of emergency, being prepared is the best way to ensure you can safely navigate the aftermath.
If your aging parents live alone, you need to make sure that their house also has emergency supplies that are easily accessible in case you are not able to get to them quickly. In addition to supplies, you should agree on an emergency plan.
Creating An Emergency Plan for Elderly Parents
Unless you live on the same street as your parents, you need to create a plan that they can follow until you can safely get to them. Here are some things to consider.
- Find a Local Contact: Do they have a neighbor that they get along with who can check in on them? Don’t just assume their neighbor will watch out for them without discussing it. Visit the neighbor with your parent and ask if they would be willing to check on your parent in an emergency. In California, after an earthquake, you are supposed to check for a gas leak and turn off your gas. Will their neighbor be willing to assist with this? What about helping them get their power back on, or pick up debris to reduce fall risks.
- Post-Emergency Contact: After an emergency, will you parents be able to call you to let you know that they are OK? Do they have a traditional cord phone that doesn’t require electricity to work (cordless phones need electricity to work). Do they have a cell phone that is regularly charged? If not, you may want to explore getting the tools they’ll need to reach out. You should also have an out-of-state person that you can all call to let them know you are safe. Sometimes, it is difficult to make local calls, so an agreed contact can be the go-between.
Emergency Supplies for Aging Parents
Aside from the standard emergency supplies that every household needs (bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, etc.), here is a list of necessities specifically for older adults.
- Extra Prescription Medication: If possible, reach out to your parent’s medical provider about securing samples or an extra 10 day supply of necessary medication. Don’t assume that they’ll be able to use what they already have. What if they’re at the end of the prescription? What if the pharmacy is closed or not functioning for a few days?
- Over-The-Counter Medication: In addition to necessary prescriptions, they should also have a small stash of over-the-counter medication for minor medical issues. In my house, I need ibuprofen and allergy medication on a semi-regular basis, as well as band-aides. What does your parent use? Once you are sure it is safe to use with their prescription medication, purchase extra supplies for their emergency kit.
- Flashlights and Batteries: Put working flashlights in each room of the house and be sure to have a stash of extra batteries. You never know which room your parent will be in when their power goes out, so having working flashlights in every room will help lower their fall risk in an emergency.
- Battery Operated Can Opener: If your parent has arthritis, using a manual can opener can be challenging. There are a number of options on Amazon.com to choose from. You may want to consider getting rid of their manual can openers altogether.
General Emergency Supplies for Everyone
In case you need a refresher, here are emergency supply recommendations from the American Red Cross.
- Water: One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days (2 weeks is optimal)
- Food: Non-perishable food that doesn’t require cooking
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- Battery operated or hand-cranked radio
- First aid kit and manual
- Multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene supplies (toilet paper, garbage bags, deodorant, etc.)
- Copies of personal documents (medication and medical information, deed to home, birth certificate, insurance policies)
- Cell phone with extra battery/charger and land line with a cord
- Printed list of emergency contacts
- Cash in small denominations
- Emergency blanket
- Map of the local area
- Whistle to attract attention of emergency workers
- Manual can opener
- Extra set of keys
- Entertainment (playing cards, crossword puzzles, etc.)
We never know when disaster may strike. Taking the time to prepare now will save you and your family stress in the event of an emergency.