Tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and other severe weather events can cause significant emotional, physical and financial distress, which is why it’s important to prepare and not let it take you by surprise. Having a plan in place is key to staying safe and reducing impact. However, according to a recent report from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, many older adults have not taken key steps recommended by disaster preparedness agencies. Less than half of respondents said they had signed up to receive alerts through their community’s emergency warning system, and three in four individuals who use medical equipment that requires electricity did not have an alternative power source.

These statistics can be concerning, especially as 2022 has already brought powerful floods, terrifying droughts, and unusually early heat waves globally – and it seems there’s more extreme weather on the way. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted above-normal temperatures for most of the U.S. during the summer and expects above-average hurricane activity this year, forecasting a likely range of 14-21 named storms. For older adults, especially those who live alone, preparation and taking extra steps to ensure your safety should not be put off until tomorrow.

“Navigating severe weather and emergencies can be extremely stressful, but for older adults who may need to consider mobility issues, vision impairment, medication management, and other challenges, it may be harder to prepare and respond to these events,” said Lakelyn Hogan Eichenberger, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiving advocate at Home Instead, Inc. “Creating a plan, organizing important documents and relying on the support of friends, family members, and caregivers, can go a long way in helping seniors feel safe.”

Hogan Eichenberger outlines helpful tips for seniors to prepare for extreme weather:

Step 1: Create a Communication Plan


Create a plan for where you will go, who you will call, and what you will take with you if you need to leave your home in the event of a weather emergency, and practice with a loved one. Have a back-up plan for who you can check in with if a family member is unavailable – either a neighbor, caregiver, or family friend.
Don’t rely on your cell phone contact list. Create a hard copy with contact information for family members and friends and leave a copy by the phone and in your emergency kit. Make sure all family caregivers have this list, as well as neighbors and professional caregivers who may be checking in.
Designate one local contact and one out-of-town contact to call during or after a disaster. Long-distance calls may be easier to make when local areas are impacted. Ensure everyone is on board with this chain of communication.
Discuss and revise your plan annually to assess any physical changes or limitations that may require alterations to the plan. Situations change, so it is a good idea to revisit arrangements to confirm it is still the best course of action and everyone is kept in the loop.

Step 2: Be Prepared to Evacuate

Pack an emergency ready kit with medications, essential medical supplies, non-perishable snacks, bottled water, local maps, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a cell phone with a charger and backup battery. Include important documents such as identification, insurance cards, key financial information, emergency contact information, and a copy of your will.
Plan on where you will go during an evacuation. Keep a copy of exit routes and meeting locations in a convenient place. If not ordered to evacuate, go to the basement during a tornado. During a hurricane or tropical storm, sheltering in an interior room, closet, or hallway is best.

Step 3: Stay Informed

Be aware of emergency resources, such as local plans for emergency alerts, evacuation, and shelter resources available in your community. Visit your local Area Agency on Aging or area community center for resources and recommendations for your region.
Set up weather alerts on your phone to notify you of severe weather and for live updates. Out-of-town family can also set up weather alerts for a loved one’s area, so they are aware of when there is an emergency.

In the event of a natural disaster or weather emergency, having a professional caregiver in the home to support an older loved one can be comforting. A professional caregiver can help provide a sense of safety, keep a senior’s routine as normal as possible, and regularly update family members. For more information on services a caregiver can provide and additional resources, visit https://www.homeinstead.com/home-care-services.

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