With the average life expectancy in Arkansas being 75.9, we are also living longer in the home independently. As we age we are not as steady on the feet as well as having more medical issues and we need to know what to do when we have upsets and disasters that hinder our daily living.
When it comes to disasters and a change in our daily living, sometimes are not sure where to turn, who to talk to, what decisions to make when making plans or repairs and as a health educator we like to set down and discuss several topics with seniors who are still living independently to give them the tools to make those plans and have the tools they need to prepare, get through, and recover from disasters and upsets in daily living.
When it comes to having supplies, the older we get the more supplies we need and sometimes those supplies are unique to the individual due to medical, mobility, or other conditions the individual may have. In all emergency situations, we need to have a survival kit and some of those supplies might include flashlights, blankets, copies of personal documents emergency contact information for family and friends, and even sanitation and hygiene items. There are also items you need to think about keeping in your vehicle in the event you get stranded on the road during natural disasters such as ice storms or tornados due to debris and some of those items may include climate appropriate clothing, blankets, bottled water, and first aid kit. Individualized supplies that we often overlook and that would be medications, medical supplies, and alternate mobility assist devises and/or other assistive devices that individuals use for daily living.
After mentioning a very brief and short list of supplies that may need to be on hand in an event that would prevent us from operation on a normal day to day level, we need to think about having a plan, supplies are one thing, but how do we plan and act before, during and after an event? When we plan we need to do several things in advance and a few of those steps would be to have a contact person in another state if possible. Often times phone lines and cell phone towers become damaged and even bogged down with the overwhelming response to people trying to connect with loved ones letting them know their status. If we are going outside our regular call zone, we are more likely to get through and report our status. Another avenue is sending a text message. Typically text messages use a lot less battery and a different frequency so getting messages out are a little easier. Also, when a disaster strikes, do you know where your public shelters are, do you know the evacuation procedures of the location where you live? What if you are not able to leave your home? There is a difference between sheltering in place and staying at home. When sheltering in place we need to know how to do so safely such as making sure there are no gas leaks, chemical emergencies, ability to seal a room temporarily as well as knowing fire safety measures such as not using candles as a light or heat source.
After the disaster we have dangers and hazards such as downed power lines, debris from buildings and trees that will contribute to injuries and falls which the older we get the less steady we are on our feet. One of the growing threats after disasters is financial exploitation/scams. When discussing repair work medical supplies and such, scammers prey on seniors after events because often times there is desperation of what to do and how to get it done. This senior program talks about the safety and credibility of using local services and not talking to solicitors on the phone and agreeing to assessments and work without meeting with someone face to face. Again, stressing using local resources is always advisable over the people who are there just to take money.
Everything mentioned up to this point is just a small amount of information that is available to discuss with seniors. One thing I want to go more in-depth on and that is medications. You should have at least a three day supply of reserve mediation tucked away in a small emergency kit. You can visit your local pharmacy and ask them to print medication labels for small medication bottles and put a 3 day supply in and put those in a separate bag near an escape route in our home so you can quickly grab if you need to evacuate on short notice. In this bag you should also have a list of all medication, doctors, and emergency contact information for yourself and at least three friends or family members. Those contacts should be someone close in distance, in another town and one in another state is advisable. The reasoning for a three day supply is if an event happens on a Friday evening, you have until Monday when many pharmacy and doctor offices are open to get replacement prescriptions as well as if you had to go to a different geographical location, you have time to contact a doctor and have a prescription transferred as well.
The American Red Cross has a great program that is Disaster Preparedness For Seniors by Seniors and it talks about being Red Cross Ready. The program is excellent in the fact they gathered a group of seniors who actually went through a power outage for two weeks due to a massive ice storm in Rochester, New York. This group of individuals provided valuable input on what issues they encountered during this natural disaster that helped form the program. Many of the topics discussed above are covered in this program.
I hope you found this information valuable and consider contacting a health educator/preparedness training individual to assist you and your aging community to be prepared for detrimental events that may happen.