Disaster Planning for Seniors
Disasters of all kinds affect older adults disproportionately hard, especially those with chronic diseases, disabilities, or conditions that require extra assistance to leave an unsafe area, says Christopher Hansen, AARP Group Executive Officer. The diseases of concern are: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke, and about 50 percent of this population have at least two chronic diseases.
We know that 80 percent of adults over the age of 65 have at least one chronic disease. That alone could make older adults more vulnerable during a disaster. We learned from Hurricane Katrina that roughly 71 percent of the victims were older than 60, and 47 percent were over the age of 75.
There are commonsense measures older Americans can take to start preparing for emergencies before they happen. Planning and preparation should be done now. Creating a network of neighbors, relatives, and friends to aid you in an emergency is easy to accomplish if you have a list of their phone numbers, email addresses and home and work addresses and phone numbers readily available.
While each person’s abilities and needs are unique, below are lists of common things we all need to store. The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA recommend the following items to have at home at all times:
- Water: one gallon of water per person, per day, for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Manual can opener for food
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Prescription medications for at least 3 days, as well as aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids, and laxatives
Health and Safety
- Prescribed medical supplies such as insulin, glucose, and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies
- Extra oxygen tanks and a generator if you are on continuous O2.
- Emergency first aid book
- A basic first aid kit that contains items used to: help stop bleeding, clean wounds, cover burns and has bandages and eye wash, scissors, and Band-Aids
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. In an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe, or bleaches with added cleaners.
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes
- An extra pair of glasses
- Paper cups, plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Fire extinguisher, candles, matches in a waterproof container
- Cell phone, with wall charger and car charger
- Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, and extra batteries
- A NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries
- Computer, laptop, or tablet for communication via messaging or email
- Flashlight, and extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
Other items to be kept in a waterproof, portable container,
- Important family documents such as copies of birth certificates, marriage and divorce records, insurance policies, your Living Will, etc.
- Social Security, bank account details, and credit card numbers and records
- A list of all current medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
- Cash or traveler’s checks
- Paper and pencil as well as books, games, puzzles and other diversions
Always being prepared can be a life saver!
Good Advice About Dealing with Handymen
By Nick Suhr, J.D. and Jane Gregor, RN, BSN
Living in a community like Sun City gives one a sense of security and well-being that can sometimes be risky. Nowhere is it more important to exercise caution than when it comes to hiring people to make repairs in your home. Statistics show that senior citizens are frequently targeted by hucksters and frauds. Why? Because they are easy marks, often willing to accept promises that can end up, when broken, being legally unenforceable. Fear of retaliation can also be major factor in a senior community. Most home repair and “fix-up” jobs do not involve major sums of money, and this fact often deters homeowners from pursuing legal rights or even complaining.
There are many ways to avoid being “taken” by incompetent or unscrupulous service providers, and everything begins and ends with you, the homeowner. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get proof of licensing. This can easily be obtained from the SC Department of Labor by telephone at 803-896-4686 or online at www.llr.state.sc.us/pol/contractors/index.asp?file=laws.htm.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau at 1-803-254-2525
- If you have any questions about or problems with any provider, call the Sheriff’s Department (Officer Bill Murphy) at 803-283-4136
- Get two or more written estimates before the work you need to have done. This is the only way to avoid a “He said He said” situation.
- Make sure the contractor has liability insurance
- Ask for references and try to examine completed jobs by the service person. Better yet, ask around and speak with people who already had work done by the person or company, because this is generally the most reliable source of information, good or bad.
- Never rely on advertising or promotional materials or deal with someone who employs high-pressure tactics or tells you “this job is so easy I’ll only charge less than $!00.00 and I don’t do written estimates for those prices.”
- Make sure you get something in writing and signed that at least describes the work to be done, the time for completion and the payment terms. For small jobs, never pay in advance but only after the work is completed to your satisfaction. For others, hold back at least 1/3 until completed to your satisfaction.
- If you live alone, have a friend or family member with you as a witness when you make an agreement to have someone work in your home.
We are all in this together. If you had a bad experience or were the victim of fraud, the most important thing you can do is immediately file complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Sheriff’s Department at the phone numbers shown above. That’s what being a good neighbor is all about.
We are blessed to live in SCCL, an Active Senior Living community. We have the ability to preserve our health and safety by being vigilant, aware and responsible for OUR OWN Health.
Number one avoidable problem is substance abuse among individuals over 65. Abuse results from misuse of alcohol and/or over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Misuse of drugs refers to underuse, overuse, or erratic use of legally prescribed and/or over-the-counter drugs. Mixing alcohol with most medications is contraindicated as alcohol makes many medications either more or less potent. Your MD is counting on the accurate dispensing of medications for your success of your overall healthcare plan. Beyond the physical and mental health risks, frequent heavy drinking also is linked with personal problems and having relationship troubles. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation and measure. This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.) Drinking more alcohol increases such dangers as alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents. Aging lowers the body’s tolerance for alcohol. Older adults generally experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they were younger. Alcohol is a factor, for example, in about 60% of fatal burn injuries, suicides and homicides as well as many slips and falls: 50% of severe trauma injuries ( broken hips & knees etc) and 40% of fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Depression: Consider asking your doctor about a depression anxiety screening questionnaire if you have any question that you or a loved one seems to becoming more depressed or anxious. Remember too that alcohol is a depressant and muscle relaxant.
Stop Smoking. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. About 8.4% of adults aged 65 or older still smoke cigarettes in the last survey in 2010
Advance Care Directive – a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, often including a living will, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor.
Living Will – A written document that allows a patient to give explicit instructions about medical treatment to be administered when the patient is terminally ill or permanently unconscious; also called an advance directive.
Health Care Power of Attorney – Legal authorization for one person to represent another’s wishes regarding medical treatment and care should that person become unable to do so for themselves. Health care power of attorney names the agent as a representative authorized to make decisions regarding care and procedures as stated by the individual. Each state has their own HCPOA form and you should update your form to reflect your state of residence. During travel, most states will honor the HCPOA from your home state
DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) – Do not resuscitate (DNR), or no code, is a legal order written either in the hospital or on a legal form to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), in respect of the wishes of a patient in case their heart were to stop or they were to stop breathing. This form DOES NOT address any other form of medical care and does not affect any ongoing treatment options. Each state has its own DNR form and they DO NOT transfer from state to state. The form must be presented as an original, no copies.
SC – South Carolina Emergency Medical Do Not Resuscitate Order (on white paper)
NC – Goldenrod (on bright gold paper)
MOST (Medical Order for Scope of Treatment) – A NC (only) form for use by physicians and other licensed healthcare facilities to assist in providing information relating to a patient’s desire for resuscitation or life-prolonging measures. These forms are available only to physicians’ offices or other licensed hospital or healthcare facilities. The form is not transferrable to other states and must be an original (bright pink form).
Five Wishes – Five Wishes is America’s most popular living will because it’s written in everyday language and helps people express their wishes in areas that matter most — the personal and spiritual in addition to the medical and legal. It also helps you describe what good care means to you, whether you are seriously ill or not. It allows your caregiver to know exactly what you want. Families also use Five Wishes to help start and guide family conversations about care in times of serious illness. Five Wishes is helpful for all adults – everyone over 18 years old – and anyone can start the conversation within a family. Sometimes it begins with grandparents and other times it is the younger family members who bring up the topic. Regardless of your age, you can bring this gift to your family.