Basic Preparedness for Seniors, and People Living With Disabilities

With the cold weather of winter gripping most of the United States, it is a reminder for the need for all of us, especially seniors, to be prepared. We consider that the need to be prepared ranges from a flu epidemic to an extended power outage to evacuation due to flooding or other natural events or emergencies. While we often think that these things happen to other people, or in other communities, not our own, there is no time to prepare like the present.

Much has been written on emergency preparedness, yet many of us procrastinate on following through with the suggestions. Seniors, people with disabilities, and parents of children with special needs have a few additional necessities to consider before emergencies occur. Taking time now to really think about what conditions an emergency will include can make the difference between the discomfort of surviving an emergency and catastrophe in the event of emergency. Here are a few recommendations for preparedness:

1) Copies of prescriptions should be made and it is important to try to have these scripts filled in advance so you do not run out. This also applies to medical supplies such as diabetes testing strips, insulin needles and oxygen. If your doctor tells you to get a flu shot, do so. It does not guarantee you will not get the flu, but it increases your chances of not getting it, or getting a lighter version of it. As a general practice, proactively wash your hands often, and avoid getting close to people who are known to be sick, whether they are coughing, sneezing or complaining of flu symptoms. Often sick people do not stay home.

2) In the event that your power does go out, hypothermia may be a problem in the winter and for this reason, seniors or disabled persons should be checked on regularly during the emergency. If you use a CPAP machine, it will not work unless you have a back up battery or generator. Make sure the battery is charged and if using a generator, make sure to have fuel and only use it outside. Contact your electric company now and let them know your medical needs require electricity. To do so, you will need your doctor to fill out paperwork indicating your needs for electricity. This will put you in a priority group so if the power goes out, your medical condition will be taken into account giving you special consideration at the top of the list.

3) Good planning includes preparing for any situation. Devise a plan with family and friends in case of an emergency. Those with weakened immune systems are sensitive to extreme temperatures and if there is no heat or air conditioning, may need to leave their home and go to stay with relatives or even a hotel. Check with your county government or local Red Cross to see if there are shelters or centers open for situations like this. Transportation should be arranged, just in case. Adults should make sure they have copies of their bank statements, wills, insurance information as well as photo identification. For children, it is suggested to have a copy of their birth certificate, as well as, a small toy or stuffed animal to give comfort in a scary emergency situation.

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