With hurricane season in full swing, one of the biggest priorities on every caretaker’s mind is how to keep seniors and other vulnerable individuals safe during storms. And as climate change continues to exacerbate storm conditions, ensuring proper hurricane preparedness is key. For reference, in 2022 alone, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) is forecasting a predicted range of 14 to 21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Additionally, 6 to 10 of these will likely have the potential to become true hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 hurricanes that could become category three or higher.
To help patients and their loved ones be better prepared to weather the storm, the HealthKeeperz team breaks down everything caretakers need to know about hurricane preparedness, from building an evacuation plan to caring for and supporting individuals after a storm.
HealthKeeperz Sheds Light on the Steps to Take Now
Hurricanes and other summer storms are an inevitable and unavoidable occurrence these days. Taking the time to plan accordingly can help not only provide peace of mind, but could potentially save lives when Mother Nature strikes. Regardless of how close or far away you may live from your loved one, you can help ensure they are safe throughout hurricane season.
The caregivers at HealthKeeperz have extensive experience in planning for hurricane season. Here are a few essential steps they recommend taking to protect those you love most.
Prepare an Evacuation Plan
One of the most important things you can do as a caretaker is to figure out an evacuation plan that takes into account the needs of your loved one. No one wants to think they’ll ever have to leave the comfort of their home, but preparing now can ensure the safety of your loved ones in the future.
When creating an exit strategy, it’s important to involve your loved ones as much as possible. Talk to them about what will be done and what steps will be taken, and make sure they agree to any plans made. Remind them of important information such as phone numbers and news channels to watch. Practice your plan together. In the event of a real storm, cell service may be limited, so make sure those in your care know what to do and where to go.
Purchase Essential Items
No matter what natural disaster you’re preparing for, keeping essential items in stock and stored in an accessible location is always a good idea. If the situation is not severe enough to evacuate, conditions will still likely be dangerous on the road, and the power may be out for an extended time. Make sure seniors have easy access to nonperishables like bottled water, canned food (and a can opener!), water filtration tablets, and hygiene products. All of our patients are called upon by their clinician to see what their evacuation plan is and if they had the adequate amount of medical supplies needed to weather the storm. Each patient is assessed by their needs to include but not limited to: wound care supplies, medications, enteral supplies and oxygen tanks if and when power outages occur.
Create an Emergency Kit
When seniors need to evacuate, building a small emergency kit can ensure they are prepared to be away from their homes. Stock an easy-to-transport kit with important items like three days worth of medicine, a flashlight with extra batteries, first aid supplies, a multitool, and three days worth of any required medical devices.
The HealthKeeperz team also recommends including important information and documents. Write down emergency phone numbers, including the numbers of family members, the patient’s home health team, and their pharmacy. Within the emergency kit, be sure to include identification and insurance cards that are protected in a sealed plastic bag or laminated.
Sign Up for Emergency Alerts
Before and during an active storm, staying up to date on the situation can help provide crucial safety information that can help inform any potential evacuation plans. As FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell explained:
“Hurricane Ida spanned nine states, demonstrating that anyone can be in the direct path of a hurricane and in danger from the remnants of a storm system. It’s important for everyone to understand their risk and take proactive steps to get ready now by visiting Ready.gov and Listo.gov for preparedness tips and by downloading the FEMA App to make sure you are receiving emergency alerts in real-time.”
There are a variety of different apps, and websites seniors and other home health patients can check to receive updates. For example, the FEMA mobile app provides real-time emergency alerts, updates to your cell phone, and information on where to find nearby shelters.
Staying Prepared Throughout the Year with HealthKeeperz
While the above recommendations are important to follow during hurricane season, knowing how to stay prepared throughout the year can help your loved one stay calm and safe when storm season rolls around in 2023.
HealthKeeperz recommends a few things families and caretakers can do to practice good hurricane preparedness throughout the year.
Educate and Incorporate Technology
If your loved ones don’t currently have a web-enabled smartphone, it’s a good idea to get them one. Regardless of whether or not they intend to use it every day, it’s important to educate them on how to use it for emergency purposes. Show them how to make calls, use apps, and stay connected to the internet. Make sure they have a charger on hand and know how to use it. To ensure quick and easy use, preprogram the phone with important numbers and apps that are easy to find.
Even if an elder or special needs patient is familiar with smartphones, reminding them to check emergency apps and keep chargers accessible can be helpful in establishing a routine.
Before hurricane season starts, make a point to stay informed on forecasts regarding the upcoming season and discuss these changes regularly. If an above-average storm season is looming, it is helpful to know that information beforehand so you can plan accordingly. Staying up-to-date on the latest information surrounding storm safety and weather patterns can help you and your loved one determine the best emergency plans for any given situation, and an open dialogue about these changes can help you and your loved one stay calm and feel better prepared.
After-storm Assistance with HealthKeeperz
Going through a hurricane can be an intense, stressful experience for anyone, especially seniors and other at home health patients. It is essential to understand that they might need additional mental and emotional support to cope with this stress. Additional companionship from you or other caretakers can help them feel less alone and more comfortable opening up about their experiences. Remind them that they’re safe and that what they may feel is completely normal.
If they were asked to evacuate, arranging for a caretaker to assess their home for any damage can help alleviate some stress and can give the caretaker the opportunity to make any immediate fixes or arrange for repairs.
At the end of the day, having a well-thought-out plan can make all the difference when severe weather hits. The goal of Healthkeeperz is to be sure that our patient safety is the number one priority before any storm hits. I
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