Storms can be especially distressing for seniors. In addition to the preparation described elsewhere on this Web site, here are some important tips for seniors.
If you are a senior
You cannot count on help immediately following a storm. Make preparations now. If you have no one to assist you, local agencies such as the Red Cross can help. Call them now, not when a storm is threatening.
Make sure loved ones, especially if they’re long distance, know where you plan to be and how to reach you.
If possible, find relatives or friends who can take you in an emergency.
If you need to wait out the storm in a special needs shelter, make arrangements now.
If you’re single, find another single or singles and make plans to “buddy up.” Identify someone now who you will check on and who will check on you before and after the storm. If you live on a low floor of a high rise, suggest a neighbor who lives above the second floor, or anyone who has difficulty walking, to stay with you during the storm.
If you live in a senior center, attend, or even organize, meetings to coordinate emergency plans.
If you have special dietary requirements (low sodium, diabetic, kosher), stock up now. Mass meals delivered after storms probably won’t meet your needs.
Make sure you have enough of your medications before storms threaten. Have ice for those medicines that need refrigeration.
Seniors are tempting targets for post-storm gougers and scammers. Be wary.
After the storm, don’t be afraid to apply for aid. You will NOT be forced from your residence, unless it’s unsafe.
After the storm, with power out and debris everywhere, your health and safety must be a top priority. Don’t push yourself or act carelessly. When in doubt, seek help.
If you have a relative or friend who’s a senior
Make sure he or she has a storm plan.
Many seniors don’t have transportation or are disabled and will have difficulty stocking up before a storm and getting critical items afterward. Make sure they have everything they need, or get it for them.
If your loved one is disabled or in an assisted living facility, make arrangements for where he or she will go in an emergency.
Get a door hanger
If you don’t yet have one, get the “AAA Help Alert” door hanger. One side is fuchsia and reads “HELP.” The other side is bright yellow and reads “OK.”
After a storm, put them in a visible place so emergency responders know who needs help first. Obtain hangers from the Area Agency on Aging. The agency can provide several for your community, facility or condominium.
Neighbors helping neighbors
In the 2004 storms, many seniors and shut-ins went for days without fresh food, water and medical attention because power and telephone failures left them unable to call for help.
Now, response teams are organized to check on the elderly and infirm to assess medical and relief needs.
The Area Agency on Aging is working with seniors and senior communities on disaster planning. During the 2004 and 2005 storms, the agency delivered more than 456,000 meals, plus ice and water, to 167,492 seniors across Florida. Contact the office for help with Family Emergency Plans or Community Disaster Plans.
Florida Department of Elder Affairs: (800) 963-5337, http://www.elderaffairs.state.fl.us
Caring for Alzheimer’s Patients
Dealing with an approaching storm is a special challenge for people with Alzheimer’s disease — they include more than 500,000 Floridians — or for those who care for them.
More than 500,000 Floridians have a memory problem, and this vulnerable population grows each year.
If you care for such a person, now is the time to create an action plan.
Besides all the other preparations all residents need to make, you also should talk to your patient’s physician about staying home during a storm.
Keep all medications in full supply and discuss ways of keeping them refrigerated if necessary.
Make sure to note any emergency phone numbers in case you need to reach your physician quickly.
Secure all car keys in a safe place so your loved one can’t get to them and leave the house alone.
Maintain as much of a routine as possible. Have a supply of books, magazines, newspapers, games and puzzles to keep your loved one engaged. Include a battery-operated CD player and a selection of music.
Keep your loved one on a regular sleeping pattern.
Stay calm throughout the storm. An Alzheimer’s patient may take cues from your behavior.
If you plan to evacuate, know exactly where you are going. Call ahead to ensure a safe place to stay.
If possible, have a trusted friend or family member stay with you and your loved one. The extra help will allow you time to take care of your own needs.
If you do need to leave your home, always take your loved one with you, or have someone stay with him or her while you are gone. Never leave an Alzheimer’s patient unattended during a disaster.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease and special needs shelters, call Alzheimer’s Community Care at (561) 683-2700, or log onto alzcare.org.
Alzheimer’s Community Care
Palm Beach County: (561) 683-2700
Treasure Coast: (772) 223-6351
24-hour crisis line: (800) 394-1771