No one wants to contemplate the possibility of a natural disaster striking the area where an older loved one lives — but it's wise to consider what to do in such instances before an emergency happens.
After all, hurricanes, tornados, fires, floods and other disasters could happen at any time. And given the increasing frequency and severity of intense weather-related events and other so-called natural disasters, it may not be a case of if, but when.
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It's a mistake to assume someone else has established a disaster preparedness plan ahead of time. In a 2015 study involving more than 1,300 older adults, researchers from the University of Iowa found that only 34 percent reported participating in an educational program or reading information about disaster preparedness.
More recently, a 2018 study by Rand Health found that most age-friendly communities and senior villages in the U.S. do not place a high priority on promoting disaster preparedness.
While most public health departments have conducted disaster preparedness programs, these aren't necessarily designed to address the needs and challenges of older adults. And yet, older adults are especially vulnerable during and after disasters, whether because they have chronic health conditions or mobility challenges.
That's why it's smart to “take preparatory steps in non-emergent times, so that when an emergency does occur, there's a plan in place for what older adults and family caregivers should do,” says Andrew B. Crocker, a gerontology and health specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Service in Amarillo. Here are key steps to take, depending on where your loved one lives: