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Hurricane Preparedness for Caregivers

By  Angela Medieros, Staff Writer 

 

Hurricane season has made its entrance again.  Individuals who are caring for loved ones must plan as far ahead as possible.  Regardless of how many hurricane seasons weathered, current knowledge is literally a lifesaver.

The season lasts from June 1st to November 30th.  Longtime residents living along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have the dates memorized, but even those who have been through many cycles should look at each season individually.

LOCATION, LOCATION

If you are in an evacuation zone, your supplies should be portable and manageable.  Depending on the health condition of your loved one, you may already have information on where to go.  Ventilator dependent patients who must go through storms at the hospital must find out which supplies they have to bring.  Supplies like gauze pads and other day-to-day items may not be available, since it is not a regular admission.  Loved ones who are told to go to the hospital may only be kept for the duration of the storm.  Other facilities will have to be found if a home cannot be returned to immediately.

Time spent in shelters can be trying, especially for caregivers who have loved ones who are memory challenged.  Having items that will entertain your loved one will help.  In addition, consider “making friends” with as many people as possible to divert both of you.  If the loved one has hearing difficulty, bring earbuds or headphones along to allow higher volumes to be used.  Shelters can be filled to capacity with a variety of people who are used to different schedules.  Even a hurricane cannot deter them from their routines.  Patience and tolerance can be your most frequently used “supplies” at a shelter.

Special needs shelters are determined by the county, and registration is also required.  As with any shelter, taking along all medications is a must.  Prepare a list of medications, dosages and other medical facts like allergies and have it laminated.  The list can be kept with the medications for quick reference if needed.
Most special needs shelters require everyone to bring their own supplies, including bedding.  Arrive as soon as you are aware you must evacuate to a shelter rather than wait until the last minute.  The storm determines when transportation to the shelter or hospital is shut down.  Having supplies packed and ready to go will allow you to leave immediately. 

Therapy pets are allowed in special needs shelters, but not household pets.  If your loved one cannot be separated from their pet, speak to your local Humane Society about qualifying them as a therapy pet.  Last minute arguing with shelters or loved ones may keep everyone in an unsafe situation.  Storms can turn on a dime, as we saw with Hurricane Andrew.  They can also appear to “last forever” as Hurricane Wilma did.  Everything you do to prepare is an investment in everyone’s safety.

ITEMS ON HAND

Take a look at your pantry.  People who are not accustomed to canned food will keep little of it around.  The familiar hurricane phrase “We’ll just eat sandwiches” is unrealistic.  By the time the storm is over, everyone will look for meals to return to normal.  If power is on, it’s not a problem.  When there’s no power, caregivers must use a creative hand to keep themselves happy and distressed while feeding loved ones.

Consider adding a canned dish to meal offerings before it is necessary to use them.  Corned beef hash, canned chicken or tuna and other “hurricane foods” as a temporary part of normal diet will help everyone get used to them.  This cuts down on those refusing to eat until the power goes on.  Every couple of weeks, have a “hurricane meal night.”  It can help keep the season in the “memory loop” of all concerned, but still be a fun experience.  Caregivers will be able to determine which types and brands of canned goods will be eaten by everyone.

EXTRA HINTS FOR CAREGIVERS

Consider purchasing caregiver and loved one medallions from the Alzheimer’s Association to wear in the event of emergency.  You may do everything you can to avoid separation from your loved one, but the information that can be obtained via the service’s 800 number is a backup.

Precautions are taken in shelter facilities to ensure safety for everyone.  However, keeping valuables out of sight and on your person is the first safety measure.  A checklist of the items you are carrying will prevent you from worrying about loss, but the list should remain in your possession at all times.

Examine whether a safety deposit box would be a useful investment versus a “home safe.”  Papers and other valuables should be plastic sealed in either case. 
Websites and printed information on quantities of food and water are excellent guidelines.  You can overstock if you choose, but keep the recommended amounts on hand until the season is fully over.  To prevent expiration, rotate your supplies within hurricane season.

Don’t wait until the last minute to check and buy batteries or any other items.  If you need to make a last minute trip to the store, focus on items that will keep.  Buying perishable foods when a storm is imminent will waste money and food reserves if the power goes out.  Although you may buy a gallon of ice cream for the “lights out party,” make sure you have non-perishable fun foods when the fridge should be kept closed.

Thinking ahead will offer you a sense of comfort and give your loved one a feeling of security.

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