Have a Plan for the Elderly, the Sick and the Disabled
A hurricane can be especially taxing on the less-agile elderly, the sick and the disabled–and on their caretakers–but you can help to prepare for the challenge.
Since you may have special needs, the time to prepare for the unexpected is now.
- Get information,
- Make a plan, and
- Assemble a disaster kit
Accurate information is a must; you need to know how the storm and the days afterwards will affect you, your mobility and your ability to meet your needs. You may depend on a caregiver, influencing your responses to problems created by a storm. You MUST consider the worst possible outcomes and prepare yourself as much as possible, so answer the following:
What might your neighborhood look like after a storm?
- Flooding, debris and damage to roads and sidewalks might leave you stranded at home and keep caregivers away for a few days.
- Your home might be destroyed or damaged and unlivable for a long time.
- Utilities might be out of service. You may lack running water or electricity, hampering cooking, telephoning, or cooling and lighting your house for weeks
- You might not be able to get groceries, medical supplies or other special needs items for days after a storm.
How will the storm affect your daily routine?
- Public transport might be interrupted.
- Travel times can be considerably longer due to congestion, lack of traffic lights or damaged roads.
- You might find yourself confined to crowded, noisy surroundings (e.g., a shelter), unable to maintain normal schedules
- Your independence might be reduced; after a storm you might need assistance to do the things you usually do unaided.
Make a plan:
Decide what you can do for yourself during and after a hurricane, and identify ways in which you will likely need help. A good plan will hugely reduce the stress of a storm.
Plan your personal team:
Set up a group of friends who will help you prepare for a storm and assist you afterwards. They should be people you know and trust and who can easily reach you to see if you need help. Do not depend on just one person; include a minimum of three in your network.
Ask you team to:
- Check up on you immediately once a storm warning is announced, and keep you updated with any storm-related information that you cannot get yourself.
- Agree on how the team will contact you during and after a storm. Do not depend on working telephones. Identify alternate ways of getting in touch.
- Give your team all necessary keys to access your house.
- Ensure your team is familiar with operating any special equipment you use.
- Note theirs and your arrangements to travel, including dates, and off-island contact numbers.
Plan for the storm:
Print basic identification information on an armband that can be worn with any medical alert tag or disability bracelet, if applicable. Always carry more detailed and waterproofed (Ziploc bag) identification on your person.
Your information sheet should include:
- Name, address and phone number
- Contact details for family and friends. Include who to contact in case of emergencies. List at least one person who lives locally and one who lives off island.
- Medical history
- Medications and prescribing instructions
- Names and phone numbers of physicians
- Health insurance details including phone and policy numbers
- Medical equipment suppliers, model and serial numbers. Include pacemakers, feeding pumps, home IV units, suction machines, wheelchairs
Plan to stay home during a storm?
Be sure you can communicate. Keep the following items handy:
- A writing pad and pens
- A flashlight and batteries for signaling and illumination
- Remind friends that you may not be able to respond to warnings or emergency instructions. Ask them to keep you informed
- Do not stay home alone during the storm. Ask your caregiver or team member to stay with you.
Plan for any special medical needs:
If a health condition prevents you from staying in your home during a storm, you and/or your caregiver should plan around your needs. Consider:
- Emergency Medical Centres: A special needs patient who requires accommodation in an approved NHC shelter should locate one with an established Emergency Medical Centre (EMC). These are located at West Bay Primary School, Prospect Primary School, Savannah Primary School, Bodden Town Primary School, East End Civic Centre and North Side Civic Centre. Patients with special needs and their caregivers are asked to register with the EMC nurse as well as the shelter warden.
- Caregivers: Patients' caregivers MUST stay with them at all times. EMC nurses and doctors cannot take care of routine/daily needs as they are present for medical emergencies.
- Dialysis patients: There are only two dialysis units in the Islands, one at the Cayman Islands Hospital and the other at Faith Hospital on Cayman Brac. All dialysis patients receive an information package from the unit at which they receive regular care. Included are specific instructions regarding pre-disaster and post-disaster treatment, emergency diet and overseas evacuation procedures.
- Oxygen therapy patients: Persons needing intermittent oxygen must bring a full, portable oxygen unit to the shelter. Persons requiring continuous oxygen therapy must consult their doctor or community nurse regarding where to stay during a storm. Oxygen users should avoid using candles or lanterns, but if there is no choice, then they MUST be used no closer than 10 feet to your oxygen source!
- Wheelchair users: Show friends how to operate your wheelchair so they can move you if necessary. Make sure they know the size of your wheelchair in case it has to be transported.
- Service animals: If you go to a shelter, your service animal will NOT be allowed and you will have to make alternative arrangements for it. Be aware that your animal may become confused or disoriented in an emergency and remember to store extra food, water and supplies for the animal.
Plan for after the storm:
Identify where you will stay if the storm damages your house, and who you can turn to for assistance. If you have a caregiver, discuss how you will interact after a storm.
Assemble a disaster kit:
Ask a friend or your caregiver to assist you with compiling a list of all you require to cope with daily living. Give copies to your support team, and seek their help in assembling a disaster kit.
Pay particular attention to:
- Disability-related supplies
- Special equipment
- Prescriptions and other medication (have at least two weeks' supply)
Basic items for inclusion in your disaster kit supplies are:
- A week's supply of non-perishable foods and water. Keep any special dietary needs in mind and include nutritional supplements and low-sodium foods
- A can opener
- A battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- A first-aid kit
- A flashlight and extra batteries
- Personal items, such as soap and toilet paper
- Paper towels
Prepare ahead and pack all disaster kit items together in a watertight container.
Remember: Storms are unpredictable and you may need to leave your house in a hurry. You should have your disaster kit ready to take with you at a moment's notice. Once a storm alert has been given, immediately pack a small bag with several changes of clothes, your information sheet (see previous section), other important papers and favorite photographs. Also make sure cell phones are fully charged, that you have some extra cash on hand and that your / your caregiver's car has a full tank.
Last Updated: 2010-08-15