7 Actionable Tips for Creating a Caregiver Emergency Preparedness Plan
Written by Chad Birt on Mon Aug 15 2022.
As a family caregiver have you ever wondered what you would do in a natural disaster? Unpredictable events like earthquakes, forest fires, flooding, and tornadoes are the kinds of things to keep you up at night, but with an emergency action plan, there’s one less thing to worry about.
Ahead of National Emergency Preparedness Month in September, we wanted to provide you (and your family) with some actionable emergency preparation tips.
We spoke with several experts, including Krista Elkins, BA, RN, CFRN, NRP, CCP-C a paramedic and registered nurse, with more than 20 years of emergency and critical care medicine experience, and Shawn Rowland, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician, and the founder of JASE Medical. Here are 7 actionable tips for creating a caregiver emergency preparedness plan.
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1) Establish lines of communication.
Natural disasters often strike with little or no warning, so it’s crucial you know who to contact and when.
“Communication is key before, during, and after an emergency,” Dr. Rowland said. “Discuss your care recipient’s needs and your emergency plans with your support network, neighbors, and other trusted individuals before any disaster scenario. You should also have a list of emergency contacts, including doctors, therapists, and support groups. After you draft the list of numbers, keep it in a safe place.”
If you don’t have a background in health care or emergency medicine, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local fire or police department. “Many local emergency agencies provide planning and support resources for emergency preparedness,” said Dr. Rowland. “Look online or call your local health department to get started.”
2) Have backup power.
Many medical devices, such as oxygen concentrators, nebulizers, and ventilators require running electricity. If the power goes out, you need to be able to act quickly and prevent a potentially life-threatening emergency. Dr. Rowland recommends installing a backup power supply at home or buying a gas-powered generator.
“You should also contact your local power company to get on their priority or critical care list. In order to be placed on this list, most power companies require a letter or form signed by a physician,” Dr. Rowland said.
Don’t forget about batteries, either. Most electronics take AA or AAA, but it doesn’t hurt to stock up on 9-Volt or C batteries as well.
Likewise, if your care recipient uses oxygen, keep some on hand. “Individuals on an oxygen concentrator should have enough backup oxygen to transport them to an evacuation center,” said Dr. Rowland. “Plan for at least 8 hours of backup oxygen if possible.”
Pro Tip: If your loved one uses an electric scooter, walker, or wheelchair, make sure to have a manual backup. That way, you aren’t stuck if the battery dies or there’s no power.
3) Develop a caregiving plan.
You can’t prepare for an emergency unless you have a foundation to build on. If you’re a new caregiver, check out our ultimate guide to plan your caregiving.
By determining the type of care your loved one needs and establishing a caregiving team, you can know exactly what steps to take (and who’s responsible for what) in the event of an emergency or evacuation.
4) Create an emergency evacuation plan.
In a worst-case scenario, you might be forced to leave your home. If your care recipient uses a wheelchair, spends most of their time in bed, or has a neurodegenerative condition, it’s essential you know how to act.
“In this type of situation, extra planning is required. But there exist a number of helpful resources,” Dr. Rowland said. “Start by creating a plan for how to evacuate your home in the event of an emergency. This plan should include alternative routes in case your usual ones are blocked, as well as safe places to stay in case you’re displaced from your home.”
“In the event of an evacuation, you will need accessible transportation. You can check with your local emergency management agency as well as local transit businesses to evaluate potential options. In fact, the emergency management agency in your area may maintain a list of people with disabilities who may require assistance during an emergency.”
If your care recipient experiences poor mobility, Elkins recommends having a neighbor or friend available for lift assistance. That way, you can move your loved one from their bed or wheelchair to safety.
5) Pack a “to-go” bag for you and your care recipient.
“There are several items that all people should include in their emergency “to go” bags,” said Elkins. “These items include high-nutrient food and water for approximately five days, a water filter, flashlights, a first-aid kit, a swiss army knife, lighters, warm clothes, a cell phone with backup batteries, and chargers. These are important at a minimum.”
“When it comes to packing for a dependent family member, there are other important items to keep in mind,” Elkins said. “These include medical records, physician contact information, eyeglasses and hearing aids, medications, copies of power of attorney/legal paperwork, medical and insurance information, and a recent photo of the family member. It would also be helpful to pack items of comfort such as a blanket, stuffed animal, and incontinence pads.”
5) Don’t forget about medication.
If your loved one takes one or more prescriptions to manage their health, talk with their physician about creating an emergency supply. Dr. Rowland also recommends, “making a list of their prescription medications, including what the medicine is for, the dosage, and frequency. It’s also a good idea to pack over-the-counter drugs in an emergency, such as pain and fever relievers and antidiarrheals.”
6) Evacuating someone with dementia or another neurodegenerative condition.
If you care for someone with a neurodegenerative condition, like dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s vital you stay with them at all times. “Never leave the person alone,” said Dr. Rowland. “An evacuation will likely be frightening and even those who aren’t prone to wandering may do so.”
He continued, “for those with dementia and other related issues, remember that change is often very difficult to process. Bring some comforting items, if possible, during an evacuation, such as a blanket or a favorite memento.”
Elkins concurs, “people with dementia have a tendency to wander off. Keep an eye on them and don’t be afraid to elicit the help of friends or neighbors during the evacuation.”
Stock up on emergency preparedness supplies at Carewell
Now that you know how to create an emergency preparedness plan, it’s time to stock up on supplies. Here at Carewell, we carry various items sure to help in the event of a natural disaster or inclement weather.
Some of our favorites include:
Pureed Meals - balanced nutrition that’s ready to drink
Protein Shakes - premixed; no water required
Bath Wipes and other ways to maintain personal hygiene without water
Battery-Powered Items, like the PureWick female external catheter
Mobility Supplies, like walkers, canes, and rollators
Ready to use Baby Formula
If you have questions about any of these products or need help making the right decision, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our friendly and knowledgeable Care Specialists are here to help! Call (855) 855-1666 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.