Tornadoes Spur Families to Review Disaster Plans

Deadly tornadoes ripped through the midwest this past weekend. 81 tornado reports were issued in Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and in Ohio. The hardest hit was Illinois, Caregiverlist’s home state.

FEMA urges the families of elderly Americans, especially those with medical issues and limited mobility, to review, update and rehearse their disaster plans. And emergency disaster kit is a great idea so that if a disaster strikes, those most vulnerable will be confident they have what they need to “ride out the storm.”

Your disaster emergency kit (care of the FEMA) should include the supplies to last at least three days:

  • Water: at least one gallon per day per person for drinking and sanitation;
  • Food and utensils: foods that are ready to eat and not quickly perishable are ideal;
  • Blankets and extra clothing;
  • A first aid kit, including medical insurance and Medicaid cards;
  • A battery-powered radio and/or a NOAA weather radio;
  • A flashlight with extra batteries;
  • Prescription medicines: These should be rotated frequently and kept up to date;
  • Medical supplies: an extra pair of glasses, hearing-aid batteries and any other personally needed medical devices;
  • An emergency contact list: to reach family, friends and emergency numbers;
  • Extra cash: access to banks and ATMs may be limited for a time.

Your disaster plan should also include a choice of below-ground shelter if the senior lives alone. Make sure disaster preparedness is a question on your checklist if you are looking into choosing a nursing home for your loved one.

The American Red Cross reminds affected residents to return to their neighborhood only when officials say it is safe to do so.

They should also:

  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and sturdy shoes.
  • Avoid fallen power lines or broken gas lines - immediately report them to the utility companies.
  • If someone smells gas or hears a hissing noise, they should open a window, get everyone out of the building immediately and call the gas company or fire department
  • Use flashlights, not candles when examining buildings.

After a disaster, seniors especially can fall prey to scam artists looking to take advantage of the misfortunes of others. Look for legitimate assistance for services through your family member’s State Agency on Aging.

Consider hiring a Home Care Agency if you live a distance away from your senior loved one, so that someone is nearby and is ready to help.

Our hearts go out to those who lost family, friends and homes during these unexpected severe storms. If you’d like to help, you can donate by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Your donation helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters.

Nursing Homes Disaster Preparedness Plans Show Gaps

Senior safety during natural disasters is a topic we’ve blogged about before. Our elderly population is especially vulnerable during these times of high stress. A recently-released government report shows emergency plans in many nursing homes nationwide are distressfully unprepared to guard their senior residents from harm.

Using a sample of nursing homes that experienced floods, hurricanes, and wildfires during 2007–2010, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services conducted a study to determine the quality of disaster preparedness plans They analyzed national survey data and conducted site visits to 24 selected nursing homes. Investigators interviewed nursing home administrators and staff, local emergency managers, and representatives from State Long Term Care ombudsman programs. What they found was cause for concern.

On paper, most of the nursing home fared well. 92% of the nursing homes met the Federal requirements for written emergency plans and disaster preparedness training. However, their findings also showed that:

  • On average, selected nursing homes’ emergency plans included about half of the CMS-recommended checklist tasks, and none included all of them.
  • Administrators from 17 of the 24 selected nursing homes reported substantial challenges in responding to disasters.
  • LTC ombudsmen were often unable to support nursing home residents during disasters.
The detailed study showed six areas of major concern: staffing; resident care; resident identification, information, and tracking; sheltering in place; evacuation; and communication and collaboration.

Concern over nursing home resident vulnerability came to light especially during Hurricane Katrina, when 35 residents of St. Rita's Nursing Home just outside New Orleans perished in the flooding.

The study includes recommendations to revise the specified requirements for emergency plans to protect residents during and after disasters. However, make sure disaster preparedness is a question on your checklist if you are looking into choosing a nursing home for your loved one.

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Earthquakes, Tornadoes Highlight Need for Senior Disaster Preparedness

The San Francisco earthquake and recent tornadoes that tore their way through the Midwest are grim reminders of how quickly we can fall victim to natural disasters. Seniors often find themselves especially vulnerable. Perhaps they live alone and family is not nearby to help ensure their safety. They may become confused and panic without a clear plan of action. The time to map a strategy and lay in supplies is before they are needed.

The American Red Cross has published a handy document entitled, “Disaster Preparedness For Seniors By Seniors.” Written by a group of seniors who experienced a two-week power outage after an ice storm hit upstate New York, the booklet addresses the disaster planning tips for seniors with varying degrees of limitations. Whether the older adult is healthy and agile or limited in physical capabilities, everyone should take the necessary precautions and make plans to prepare for any emergency.

The Red Cross Disaster Plan has three main components:
  1. Build and Maintain a Kit: Designate a duffel bag as the go-to kit for three days worth of survival essentials. This would include water, non-perishable food, flashlight and batteries, a first-aid kit and medication, and some cash and coins. The Red Cross list is extensive but it covers all possible needs.
  2. Make a Plan: Planning ahead reduces anxiety if disaster strikes. Designate a family member, friend orcaregiver to be a point person to check in during time of disaster. There should also be an out-of-town contact person--someone who won’t be directly affected by a local event. Plan evacuation routes and meeting places if friends and family cannot be reached.
  3. Be Informed: Assess your community. Tsunamis do not occur in Ohio, but home fires can happen anywhere. Investigate what plans the community has in place and where they offer shelter. Find your local Red Cross before you need them. Also, help others be aware and make their own evacuation plans.
Scam artists love to prey on those affected by disasters, when victims are at their most vulnerable. Be on your guard. Planning ahead can reduce the instances of relying on strangers when susceptible and unprotected. Visit the Red Cross site for more information on preparing for the unexpected and check with your own State’s Services to research what assistance is available to seniors during a crisis.

My mother always told me, Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

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