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Irene is bearing up the East Coast. Hurricanes are big, swirling monsters, but they do give us time to evacuate. Caregivers might have to evacuate an elder and that comes with quick and last second decisions. This blog focuses on the few (critical) hours before and after evacuation and hopefully offer some out of the box ideas to help get you to safe ground–fast.

Evacuating Elders Safely:

  • Don’t watch the news incessantly or in front of your care buddy—it can make your elder (and children) nervous/anxious. (My mom who had Parkinson’s’ and Alzheimer’s through that we were back in WWII when the 9/11 tragedy struck).
  • Quietly gather supplies (flashlight, wallets, water, powerbars or crackers and peanut butter, blankets and pillows if you can) and don’t wait too long. It’s best to give yourself plenty of time and try not to rush. Know where you’re going—shelter, hotel, other family member’s house—and let others know you’re A,B, and C plans.
  • Leave early. You don’t want a frail elder to have to scramble to a roof  or get them into a small boat to avoid drowning in a  flood.
  • Ask your assisted living facility or long-term care facility about their evacuation plan and know where your loved one will be taken and how you will be notified.
  • Keep medications in grab and go containers for quick evacuation. Take it all–who knows when you’ll be able to get back to normal.
  •  If your parent has a certain condition and you fear you may be separated, write on their arm/leg with a sharpie their name, your name, phone number and when meds need to be taken, what condition they have, etc.
  • Make sure that you have a copy of all insurance/medical information –as well as house insurance since many times you can’t get back into the house to get policies.
  • If you’re a working caregiver or long distance caregiver (really, everyone) have a back up person (neighbor, close friend who lives nearby) who knows it’s their job to check on and if need be, evacuate your loved one.
  • If you do need to evacuate write with a lipstick/sharpie marker, etc. on your front door who is with you and where you’ve gone—it’s awful to panic and worry that your loved ones can’t be found
  • Be specific. When things get hectic people feel uncertain. Give specific directions (“Get mom and go to X shelter,” or “Mom, get your purse and your cane. We are going to X). Sound calm but authoritative so that people feel
    safe and know exactly what they need to do.
  • Be super careful as you leave your home–the terrain could be wet, rocky, slick and uncertain. No need for an accident to happen–at the worst of times.
  • Know what comforts your elder–a certain way you talk, a song, a photo. Disasters disrupt routines and throw us into uncertain circumstances. Knowing what calms, what triggers–what does and doesn’t work is important to helping your loved one adjust.

~Carol O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

Other helpful information can be found  at:

http://www.caring.com/articles/natural-disaster-tips

http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/hurricanes.html

http://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/disaster_planning_tips.pdf

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I have a friend who fled New Orleans a few days ago.

He is father, a dad, a son, and a husband. He left town with a caravan.

He’s a caregiver extraordinaire. Not because he thought it’d be fun.

It’s because he loves his family.

In one car was his wife, his wife’s mother who is wheelchair bound and with a catheter and oxygen.

In another a car iwas his college age daughter with all their belongings.

In another car was his teenage daughter with all their pets–four cats, and a puppy.

He was driving the lead car–and in his car is his mother and father. His father has Alzheimer’s.

They’re headed to a hotel in Texas to hold up until Gustav blows over.

He learned the hard way.

They evacuated for Katrina,but only after the winds and rains started. Their house had to be demolished. They were living in a hotel and fema trailer for 15 months.

Now again…

My heart aches for him. He’s got to be exhausted and worried. How many times can he do this?

If he moves to another city or state he has to get a job, relocate kids in school, move his parents and his mother-in-law and parents, all of who depend n him and his wife.

This is the epitome of being a sandwich generation. Enough stress to make your head explode.

What catastrophe could come your way?

Nature? Could you get slammed with a blizzard? A flood? What about a terrorist attack? We can’t say that won’t happen…

What would two weeks without electricity do to you and your loved ones? What if their meds ran out? What if you yourself got sick or hurt and could no longer maintain your caregiving responsibilities?

Here’s a short list of preparing for emergency care with a ill or aged loved one:

  • Know your route out of town if you need to evacuate
  • Don’t wait until the last minute
  • Keep meds and medical information in a plastic container that won’t get wet and will be easy to grab and go
  • Don’t over talk this and get your loved one worked up
  • Don’t watch the news in front of them–make your plan and be prepared. Quietly move to go items near the door or loaded into the car
  • Consider golashes for the entire family–if there’s rain or snow or ice, this makes it easier to transport people
  • Keep med times and meal times and bedtimes as structured, on-time and normal as you can. This will keep your loved one calm and functioning as well as possible
  • If your loved one moves slowly, consider buying a used wheelchair so that you can move them around easier if you have to change locations often or at the last minute
  • Know where special needs shelters are in your area
  • If you have pets–Google pet friendly hotels along your escape route. Call early–pet friendly hotels get filled fast
  • Take important docs including living wills and DPOA
  • Prepare for stress related issues to come up. Stress is hard on a healthy body for reeks havoc on people with neurological diseases. Too much information to process can overload their delicate neurons so expect their speech, motor skills, etc. to not funciton as well
  • Stay together. You are their lifeline. Don’t get separated in a crowd. Refuse to leave them.
  • Consider a medical alert bracelet or necklace with ID information–especially for those iwth dementia or Alzhiemer’s
  • Even if your loved one isn’t in adult diapers, you might want to keep some on hand for this kind of emergency
  • Stay focused. Getting everyone to safety will take your full attention and physical endurance.
  • Keep a sense of humor. As difficult–and scary as all this is, there’s nothing more reassuring that everything will be all right than a smile, a hug, or a laugh when things get crazy.

As long as you make it out of your emergency situation with those you love–and everyone is safe–that’s all that matters.

Take the time to prepare now. So many people depend on you as a caregiver–you’re their lifeline.

Do all you can to ensure the safety of those who are vulnerable–those you love.

And take it from my friend who is safe and dry in a hotel (with his whole gang, (dogs and cats and moms and dads, and mom-in-law, and wife and kids) somewhere deep in the heart of Texas–leave early!

Carol D. O’Dell, and I hope you’ll check out my book, Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

It’s available on Amazon, other online stores and in bookstores. Kunati Publishing

I’m a family advisor on Caring.com, and my syndicated blog appears on www.opentohope.com.

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