It’s that time of year again, hurricane season. Once again, Jim Cantore has his Weather Channel rain slicker poised and ready for whatever it is mother nature has in store for us.
Each year, we at Home Instead, spend time reviewing and updating our clients’ individualized emergency and evacuation plan for hurricane season. Thankfully, it’s been a couple of years since Southwest Florida has seen a major storm, but that’s no reason to get lazy, people!
The unfortunate truth is that when a storm strikes, it’s the elderly and those with special needs that tend to suffer the most. So, it’s critical to have a solid plan when caring for a senior during a hurricane.
4 Hurricane Planning Tips for Seniors in Southwest Florida:
1. Assess your living situation.
Most of our clients live safely at home with the help of support services such as our in-home CAREGivers, specialty medical equipment, meal services, and more. Without support services, those clients may easily become unsafe even without the additional issues a hurricane may impose. Start by assessing the services that are essential to prevent failure at home. Contact those providers and ask what their disaster policies are so you know what service will be like before, during, and after a natural disaster and how they handle an evacuation. (If you happen to be a current client of Home Instead Senior Care of Southwest Florida, you are all set. We have your individualized emergency and evacuation plan on file and we update them annually.)
It is also important to consider your physical environment in this assessment. Make note of your answers to the following questions and make modifications as needed.
- What flood zone are you in?
- Is your home structurally sound enough to withstand strong winds?
- Do you have a generator and does it work?
- Do you have the appropriate coverings for windows (sheets of plywood or storm shutters) and assistance putting them on?
By taking the time to assess those services that are mission-critical and also formulating a plan for alternatives, you can provide peace of mind as well as keeping seniors safe during a hurricane.
2. Have an emergency supply kit.
Keep in mind, the availability of supplies immediately prior to an upcoming storm becomes limited quickly (recall those pictures of the empty grocery shelves on the news?). In addition, supplies also remain limited immediately following a storm. So, having some items on hand is a great way to prepare. Here’s our printable hurricane supply checklist for seniors to use as a guide. Key items for the elderly to make note of: medication, medical supplies, and medical equipment (power source/backup with ample fuel). Those whose medical support devices require electricity may want to consider registering with Florida Power and Light (FPL) for priority service due to medical needs.
3. Have a main evacuation plan as well as a backup.
The ONLY nice thing about hurricanes is that we typically have a week or so to get ourselves ready. In the event of a powerful storm, evacuation may be necessary. As some older adults no longer drive, it is important to plan how their evacuation will occur.
The main plan should be to find a family member or friend who can help the senior ready their home and evacuate. Sometimes, the medical needs of the senior are greater than what a family member can provide. If that is the case, they may qualify to take shelter in a local hospital or nursing home, but you will need to plan this well ahead of time. Most hospitals require a letter from your physician to register and an accompanying caregiver to stay, as the staff is thin and services low. (Check with your local hospitals and nursing homes for availability.) Most counties also have emergency shelters designated for those with special needs, but these should ONLY be used as a plan B. They are typically overcrowded, lack special accommodations, and are thinly staffed. Special needs shelters can provide transportation, but you MUST register for these shelters well ahead of time and renew your application annually. (I’ve added lots of great local resources at the end of this post.)
It’s important, especially if you live alone, to communicate your plans to family and friends. Let people know if/when you evacuate, where you are going, and reconnect when you arrive safely home. If you are a client of Home Instead Senior Care of SWFL, we will be reaching out to you or your family at the onset of a major hurricane to confirm that you are aware of the pending storm and confirm your plan. In addition, we communicate live on Facebook during major tropical storms and hurricanes to give families that are out of town a chance to see what is actually happening (without all the unnecessary weatherman drama). Follow us on Facebook to stay connected!
Here are some quick links to the emergency management resources in the counties we serve:
Lee County Emergency Management
2675 Ortiz Avenue
Fort Myers, FL 33905
Phone: (239) 533-0620
Collier County Emergency Management
8075 Lely Cultural Parkway, Suite 445
Naples, FL 34113
Phone: (239) 252-3600
Charlotte County Emergency Management
26571 Airport Road
Punta Gorda, FL 33982
Phone: (941) 833-4000
Feeling overwhelmed? Our Care Managers can help you create and execute an emergency plan as part of your overall Care Plan. Call us today at (239) 271-2788 to get started creating your own Care Plan.