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.
Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle
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