By Jennifer McGregor
February 23, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- If you’re a caregiver for an elderly loved one, a spouse, or a friend, worries probably plague your mind every day. Preoccupied with the day-to-day concerns of caregiving, many caregivers don’t think about what steps and precautions they should have in place in case of a disaster. This guide will help you prepare for the worst with precautions and plans to keep your loved one safe in any situation.
Create a Disaster Team
If the person you care for resides alone, they could be on their own when disaster strikes without a disaster plan in place. Even if you live with your care recipient, assembling a disaster team of trusted people who can step in and help get your loved one to safety is one of the best ways to prepare for a disaster.
Include family members, friends, neighbors, and even social services agencies. Make a list of your disaster team members and ensure that everyone has contact information for the entire group so that communication is as seamless as possible should disaster strike. https://pixabay.com/en/first-aid-kit-kits-medical-patch-59646/
Write a Disaster Plan
A written disaster plan can be distributed to every member of your disaster team so that each team member understands their responsibilities as well as the responsibilities of other team members. Your written plan should also include:
● An out-of-town contact
● A meeting location, particularly for family members who may become separated
● The location of your emergency supply kit
● An emergency health card for your care recipient describing their health conditions, medications, and equipment
● A communications plan that outlines how to contact family, other team members, emergency services, health providers and pharmacies, and social services agencies
● Information on obtaining medical care and prescription drugs in disaster situations
Build a Disaster Supply Kit
Your disaster supply kit should contain, if possible, everything needed to sustain your care recipient and yourself or other caregivers for several days. Ideally, you should keep a several-day supply of medication in this kit – but make sure that you replace it annually to ensure that it’s not expired when disaster strikes.
Your emergency supply kit or disaster supply kit should also contain water, non-perishable foods, first aid supplies, personal hygiene items, flashlights and batteries, and other essentials. Ready.gov offers a great list of emergency supplies to include in a disaster kit, including suggestions for special or unique needs. You’ll need to customize your disaster kit based on your care recipient’s individual needs such as incontinence supplies, an extra pair of eyeglasses or a spare hearing aid, and other specifics.
Keep Copies of Insurance and Legal Documents in a Safe Place
Make copies of important insurance and legal documents such as your care recipient’s healthcare power of attorney, advanced directive, and homeowner’s insurance, and keep them in a safe place that’s easily accessible in case you need to evacuate quickly. Storing these documents with your disaster kit is a good idea. Additionally, keep a few recent photos of your care recipient with these documents and make sure that they wear some type of identification, such as an ID bracelet. If you get separated, these precautions will make it easier for others to help them.
No one wants to be caught in a disaster – natural or otherwise – especially if they are providing care for a loved one, spouse, or friend with special healthcare needs. Whatever the case, don’t forget to also take care of yourself when disaster strikes. You can’t properly care for another if your own health or safety is at risk. Prepare yourself and your loved ones for disaster, and find peace of mind that you’ll all be ready when the time comes.
Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.
(Image via Pixabay)