In St. Louis, where a beautiful afternoon can turn stormy in just minutes, we’re often at risk for tornados, flash flooding and massive snowfalls. In most cases, the bad weather passes through leaving nothing more than a soggy mess in its path, but in the event of a true emergency, you want every member of your family to be safe, especially if you can’t be with them.
For your aging loved one, there are a number of precautions you both need to take to protect them in any crisis, from a natural disaster to a medical emergency. Having a detailed checklist in place can ease the stress in the heat of the moment and ensure your loved one is cared for, even if they have to take care of themselves until help arrives.
Six safety plans to put in place for seniors
- An emergency action plan. Where would your loved one go during a tornado warning if they’re unable to walk down the basement steps? What would they do if someone tries to break into their home? If a fire starts in the kitchen, what are the best routes to take to escape? Role-playing different scenarios in advance can reduce any panic if the real thing ever happens.
- Oxygen backup. A power outage can be deadly for a senior who depends on therapeutic oxygen treatment for survival. Ask your loved one’s oxygen supply company about providing a compressed oxygen cylinder to have on hand in the event of an outage. If the power is knocked out, contact the power company and the police department and let them your loved one’s address to put them at the top of the restoration list.
- An on-call network. You may not be able to reach your loved one if the phone lines or down or the roads are closed. Create a list of friends, family members and especially neighbors they (and you!) can contact in an emergency. Know who in the neighborhood can come to your loved one’s rescue in the minutes following a crisis and transport them to safety along with any medical equipment they may need, such as a walker or wheelchair.
- A critical document file. Keep copies of all important documents together. Be sure to include all medical information (including doctors’ names, insurance cards and a list of medications and dosages), ID, social security card, passports, and power of attorney documents. If possible, keep an extra set at your home. Better yet, create a laminated card featuring quick-hit medical information and healthcare provider contact numbers your loved one can keep in their wallet.
- Extra medical supplies. If a senior runs out of life-saving medication during a blizzard, their health could be at risk. Ask their doctor if they would be willing to prescribe an extra round of medication to store (even if insurance won’t pay for it). Add it to an emergency box along with an extra pair of eyeglasses, hearing aid batteries, personal hygiene items (like incontinence or catheter supplies), and glucose testing supplies.
- A crisis kit. Everyone should have a ready-to-go emergency kit on hand-packed with supplies that can get them through three days on their own, including nonperishable food, bottled water, a flashlight, first aid kit, scissors, a battery-operated radio, and a battery-powered cell phone charger.
If you put together these plans, but your loved one or rescue personnel can’t find them, all the prep work was for nothing. Create a designated spot in their home to warehouse all of the files and emergency kits, such as a hallway closet or an empty cabinet in the kitchen.
A home health care company in St. Louis can also help your family put a contingency plan into place if the senior in your life is confined to home, and you’re not available 24/7. By understanding their medical needs, the prescriptions they take and the healthcare supplies they require, a private in-home caregiver may provide additional suggestions to help make a scary situation a little less frightening.