California is a beautiful place to live, but it also has more than its share of natural disasters. Earthquakes, wildfires, droughts, and floods are all common in California. It's very important for seniors and home caregivers to know what to do if the worst-case scenario happens.
Seniors are especially at risk in many emergencies. Seniors who use wheelchairs or walkers may have trouble getting to safety if they need to evacuate, and those with dementia or other cognitive impairments may have a difficult time following directions or staying safe. Seniors who take medications or rely on medical equipment also need to take special precautions to ensure they'll be okay if a natural disaster strikes.
Fortunately, with some good planning and preparation, there are lots of things seniors can do to protect themselves. Here are ten ways seniors and their home caregivers can prepare for natural disasters in California.
1. Find a home caregiver who is trained in emergency preparedness.
For seniors who live alone and who might have trouble staying safe in an emergency, home caregiving is a great first step towards better disaster preparation. A home caregiver doesn't just make the day-to-day life of their clients easier, they can also act as a lifeline during an earthquake, flood, or power outage. It's a good idea for seniors to seek out a reputable home care agency, which will provide home caregivers who have received training on how to handle natural disasters.
2. Learn about the different types of natural disasters.
A flash flood carries different risks than a wildfire or an earthquake. It's important for seniors and home caregivers to educate themselves about the different types of natural disasters that can occur in their area, as well as the appropriate preparations and responses for each. Caregivers can play an important role in discussing emergency safety with seniors.
3. Create a communication plan.
In an emergency, communication is key. Seniors can prepare by talking with their family members, neighbors, and home caregiver ahead of time about how they will communicate with each other if disaster strikes. It's also a good idea for seniors to arrange for someone to check on them after unexpected disasters like earthquakes.
4. Know how to use different kinds of technology.
Technology is an essential way to stay informed during a natural disaster. Seniors can prepare by learning basic skills such as texting and using the internet. A home caregiver can assist in helping their clients learn these skills. It's also very important for everyone to own and know how to use a battery-powered radio. If a power outage makes it impossible to use computers and telephones, a battery-powered radio provides a reliable way to get updates on the state of the disaster.
5. Make copies of all important medical information.
Seniors who have specific medical needs can prepare for emergencies by maintaining detailed, up-to-date records of all their information. This might include the following:
A list of any medications the senior takes, as well as dosage information for each.
Contact information for the senior's doctor and pharmacy.
Written information about any medical equipment the senior uses, including serial numbers and directions for use.
Copies of medical insurance cards.
Copies of prescriptions.
It's best to keep this information in a waterproof bag, in case of flooding. A home caregiver can assist in compiling the information and making sure it is stored in an accessible place.
6. Keep a supply of food, water, and personal items on hand.
Every household should have an emergency preparedness kit. Seniors who drive should also keep some emergency supplies in their car in case they get stranded away from their house. Good supplies to keep on hand include the following:
Fresh water. One gallon per person per day is a good guideline. Have enough water to last at least two weeks.
Non-perishable food. A three-day supply is a good minimum, but more is better if space permits.
At least a two-week supply of any medication the senior takes, both prescription and over-the-counter.
A battery-powered radio.
Extra batteries for the radio and flashlight, as well as for any medical equipment the senior uses.
A first-aid kit.
Hygiene items such as toilet paper.
Home caregivers can discuss the preparation of these supplies with their clients and can assist in getting everything organized.
7. Make the house as earthquake-safe as possible.
Secure or dispose of anything dangerous that could tip over or break during an earthquake. Bolt heavy shelves, such as bookshelves, to the walls. Make it as easy as possible to take cover underneath a sturdy piece of furniture. Seniors who need help with these tasks can rely on their home caregivers for assistance.
8. Consider having a generator for backup.
Seniors who rely on electricity to power their medical equipment may be in danger if a natural disaster creates a power outage. In cases like these, a generator can provide great peace of mind, as well as much-needed power in a disaster.
9. Know what to do with pets.
Seniors who have pets should talk to a veterinarian about what to do with their animals during a natural disaster. Most emergency shelters don't allow pets. Some animal shelters will take in pets during emergencies that require people to evacuate. Seniors can avoid any last-minute panic by finding out about the options in their area ahead of time. This is another area in which a home caregiver can be of assistance. Home caregivers can help arrange temporary boarding for pets and can research options.
10. Have an evacuation strategy in place.
If it becomes necessary to evacuate, seniors should leave sooner rather than later, so they have plenty of time to get to safety. Evacuation can be difficult for seniors, though, especially those who don't drive. Some seniors might even be resistant to the idea of evacuating. For safety's sake, it's important for seniors, home caregivers, and family members to discuss evacuation strategies ahead of time.
While California is generally a safe place to live, it does have some unique risks, such as earthquakes. That's why it's important for home caregivers and seniors to prepare for natural disasters in California. Communication is one of the most important aspects of emergency readiness — seniors should make a plan for staying in touch with family members, neighbors, and home caregivers during a disaster. Preparations like making an emergency kit and earthquake-proofing the house can also help seniors stay safe and healthy until the emergency is over.