Having a realistic hurricane plan is not an option for vulnerable populations like the elderly. Natural disasters have deadly consequences for seniors:
In New Orleans, people aged 60+ made up 15% of the population prior to Hurricane Katrina. Yet, more than 70% of those who died as a result of the hurricane were elderly. And, just under 100 nursing home residents died in their facilities according to the Louisiana Department of Health. In more recent times closer to home, over a dozen residents of a Florida nursing home died in the month after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning.
We’ve outlined the specific reasons disaster preparedness for seniors is so vital. These are also the considerations that should go into any hurricane plan.
Live in Tampa Bay? Benefit from our years of experience, let our team help put together a hurricane plan that will work for you.
And, don’t forget Florida’s hurricane sales tax-free holiday runs from May 31st to June 6th. Scroll down to our resources section for more details and make sure to stock up!
Lack of Access to Services and Medical Care
Following Hurricane Katrina, more than 200,000 people with chronic medical conditions, who were displaced by the storm or isolated by the flooding, had no access to their usual medications and sources of care.
Municipal services and utilities may be cut off for days and weeks during/after storms. Such issues are more than an inconvenience for elders. They can be deadly.
An elder’s hurricane plan should review all the services they rely on and how they would manage without. Any medical or care support will likely not be available for some time, following even minor storms.
Read more with our tips for the Proper Way to Build a Hurricane Plan for peace of mind.
Cut Off from Communication
There’s nothing worse than not knowing where your elderly loved one is or how they’re doing. You should include communication provisions in your hurricane plan. This might include making sure your loved one has a charged mobile phone with battery backup.
It also means knowing a care facility or provider’s emergency response plan and ensuring they have your contact information. They can let you know how they will relay information and who to contact. When completing a hurricane plan, make sure to update all records including key contact people and numbers.
Stress and Worsening Medical Conditions
People with anxiety and mental health issues suffer from the stress and chaotic conditions of disasters. Feelings such as overwhelming anxiety, constant worrying, trouble sleeping, and depression-like symptoms are common responses before, during, and after hurricanes. Older adults are more likely to need social support to reduce the effects of stress and move forward in recovering. SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) offers information and resources.
Similarly, those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias may struggle. Any change in routine disturbs most people with memory loss. And, the stressful atmosphere may exacerbate health issues, forgetfulness, agitation and behavior issues. Read our tips on Disaster Management for Alzheimer’s Caregivers.
Even minor medical conditions often worsen in the poor conditions of natural disasters. Just imagine the strain and exhaustion of preparing or evacuating in crowds when you are ill or have limited mobility.
The Aftermath: Perhaps the Most Important Reason for a Hurricane Plan
Most deaths and injuries, especially among elders, occur after the hurricane passes. Here are some of the main safety issues that should be considered in disaster preparedness for seniors:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning (generators, gas grills/stoves)
- Foodborne illness: lack of drinking water, refrigeration and limited supplies
- Injuries sustained cleaning up or making repairs
- Heat exhaustion/stroke
- Infections due to lack of clean water and unsanitary conditions
- Stress and trauma-related mental health issues
- Car accidents (crowded roads, flooding, poor conditions)
- Electrocution and fire hazards
- Illnesses carried by mosquitoes
- Lack of/limited medical treatment
Seniors often cite all the hurricane seasons they’ve survived. But, even those who make it through a storm may not survive the aftermath. Or, they may survive but in a much-worsened condition. This might lead to them having to leave that home that they so dearly didn’t want to evacuate. Read more our Tips for Safety in the Aftermath of a Hurricane.
Learn more, be prepared:
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