When a crisis does strike, every minute counts. Taking the time to prepare for emergencies beforehand can give caregivers peace of mind and help provide the tools to keep their loved ones safe. As a caregiver, planning ahead should focus on the basic steps to prepare for any emergency, whether caused by a natural disaster, a power outage or a house fire.
Start out by evaluating the needs of your loved ones and map out how best to protect them while providing sufficient food, water and medicine during an emergency. Develop an easy-to-understand evacuation plan in the case they are forced to leave their home because of unsafe conditions after a disaster. If you don’t live with your loved ones, consider asking one of their neighbors to serve as a contact person who can check on them during an emergency.
The most basic component when planning for a disaster is assembling an emergency kit that includes enough food and water to last your loved ones, including their pets, for several days. Useful items to add to an emergency supply kit include:
- Three days’ worth of water: This should include 1 gallon of water - per person, per day - for both drinking and sanitation purposes
- A three-day supply of non-perishable food. If canned goods are included, don’t forget to add a can opener
- Prescription medications and non-prescription medications such as pain relivers
- First aid kit
- Sanitation supplies such as hand sanitizer, wipes and garbage bags
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows if they need to shelter in place
- Warm blankets or sleeping bags
- Masks/facial coverings
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Cellphone power pack/extra batteries
- Copies of important personal and financial documents, including wills, medical records, house deeds and bank account information
- Spare eyeglasses and hearing aid batteries
- Contact information for friends and family members
- Incontinence undergarments, if needed
Staying in the Loop
If your loved ones have medical needs that require routine outpatient treatment or utilize home health care, discuss emergency plans with their service providers. Identify any backup providers that might be available in the area.
Develop an emergency communications plan and a phone tree to ensure that all family member can be informed about the status of your loved ones. Also, maintain a list of contact numbers for community resources such as utilities, local hospitals and police and fire departments.
If your loved ones have pets, they must be factored into any evacuation plans. Public shelters might not allow animals to stay inside, so you should develop a plan for alternative shelter arrangements. Are there relatives who might be willing to host your loved ones and their pets? Are there any veterinarians that could board the animals in an emergency?
If a loved one has Alzheimer's disease or dementia, there are several steps to take to help prepare for an emergency:
- Make sure they wear an ID bracelet.
- Add labels to their clothing to help identify them.
- Consider enrolling them in the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Wandering Support Program, which provides identification and support services in case they become lost.
- You may also need to provide emergency personnel and the local police department with photos of the loved one and copies of any medical documents.
By working on an emergency plan now, caregivers can enjoy the peace of mind knowing that their loved ones will be prepared for a disaster when the times comes. It may take some homework and effort, but it is definitely achievable and will pay off in the long run.