Hurricane Sandy Highlights the Need for Seniors to Plan Ahead

As Hurricane Sandy barreled toward the East Coast I found myself rushing into an overcrowded Stop-and-Shop to stock-up on bottled water, batteries, and non-perishable food items so that I would be prepared for a long-lasting power outage such as I experienced after Hurricane Irene. This time I was spared. Hurricane Sandy made landfall to the south, and I did not use any of the items.  However, the beauty of these items is that they do not go bad and so the bottled water, batteries and crackers are now packed away and will be there for the next nor’easter, flood, or hurricane to hit Rhode Island. The same is true for the more complicated parts of disaster planning; the planning you do now will be there for the next time.  Planning does not go bad.

So consider, were you adequately prepared to face the Sandy that thrashed the New Jersey Coast and paralyzed the New York City transportation infrastructure? If you were lucky enough to escape this natural disaster, now is the best time to confirm that your home and personal belongings are adequately insured. It is the time to develop a multi-tiered evacuation plan with your family and prepare a “grab-and-go” kit. If you are an elderly person living alone, decide now if there is someone you could stay with in the event of an emergency. It may also be the time to make decisions as to whether you have the support you need to continue living independently in your home, or whether it is time to consider other living arrangements. Proietta Law is dedicated to working with you to assess the affordability of long-term or nursing home care and developing a plan so that you can make this transition as easy as possible. Even if you decide that you are not ready to make the transition into a nursing home today, planning ahead is always the best course of action, and it can help you maximize your resources over the coming years.

Natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy accentuate our vulnerabilities. Research shows that elderly citizens are at a heightened risk when natural disasters occur. A recent article posted on Science Daily notes that “older adults left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy will likely suffer disproportionately in the days ahead, based on data from other recent natural disasters” such as Hurricane Katrina which ravaged New Orleans in 2005 and the Wenchuan earthquake that shook China in 2008. Although Rhode Island escaped the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy, many properties along the South Coast were flooded or destroyed and many people found themselves without power. Just last year, up to half of Rhode Islanders were left without power following Hurricane Irene, and in March 2010 the Great Rhode Island Flood left many properties damaged. Three consecutive years of severe weather events in our small state highlight the need for our elderly community to develop plans to ensure their safety when the next natural disaster occurs.

Tips for planning ahead:

If severe weather is forecast for your area, prepare a “grab-and-go” kit that you can take with you if you need to evacuate your home. You should include items such as:

(1)   contact information for family members and doctors

(2)   a list of medications you take and their required dosages and administration times

(3)   a week’s supply of both prescription and over-the-counter medications

(4)   an extra pair of glasses

(5)   a change of clothes

(6)   some bottled water and nonperishable snacks

Remember, it is important to keep your cell phone charged leading up to a storm so that you have a better chance at contacting family members or emergency personnel if telephone lines are damaged. If you are on insulin or another medication that requires refrigeration or depend on oxygen, plan on how you can keep medication cold and make sure you can continue to use your oxygen even if the power goes out.