Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness for Seniors & Caregivers

Hurricane preparedness is important for anyone, but especially for senior citizens who are disproportionately affected by disasters and the caregivers who assist them.

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Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness for Seniors & Caregivers
6 Min Read August 31st, 2023

It’s hurricane season, which means regardless of where you live, you’ll be hearing about it in the news. More importantly, if you or a loved one lives in an area that’s routinely affected by hurricanes, you’re going to be affected personally by these forces of nature.

Natural disasters can be scary even in the best of circumstances, but for seniors and those in need of specialized care, it can be particularly alarming.

Older adults are disproportionately impacted by hurricanes and natural disasters. That’s why it’s important to understand how to prepare properly. This can apply to:

  • Senior citizens
  • Those whose family members require assistance in activities of daily living
  • Caregivers who are responsible for patients

A hurricane is important to anyone whose path it crosses, but today we’re going to look at emergency procedures and preparedness specifically for caregivers and/or those who are receiving some form of specialized care.

Some of the advice will be the same for anyone, since basic necessities will be common to anyone in a crisis. But other advice will be of specific importance to those with more specialized needs who will be at greater risk during a disaster and its aftermath.

Information and Communication Is Key

The headline here seems like common sense, right? But what does it mean exactly to communicate well during a crisis? And what information is important to have?

A non-comprehensive list of information you’ll want to have could include the following:

  1. Contact information and location of family members, pharmacy and doctors.
  2. Locations of shelters, particularly those that cater to special needs.
  3. List of items to pack in case of evacuation.
  4. List of medications and vital information related to their administration.
  5. The medical list should also include any medical devices that are regularly used.
  6. Printed versions of these items, in case digital versions are inaccessible.
  7. Medication lists should be laminated to avoid being ruined in a storm or torn apart during packing.

Similarly, the communication needs of an individual will vary depending on their exact situation. However, many communication steps can be recommended for anyone in a caregiving environment:

  1. Communicate Before an Emergency - This is most important when you communicate with family members or loved ones, either directly as someone receiving care or as part of your role as a caregiver. Synchronizing plans can be an important step to reduce stress and confusion when the worst happens.
  2. Have a Communication Chain - A single point of contact can fail for a variety of reasons, but having multiple outlets to contact in case of medical or logistical needs can reduce the possibility that you are without help in a critical moment.

This isn’t the entirety of what you’ll want to do in planning for a hurricane or other emergency, but is the first step to a great preparedness plan.

Long-Term Care Facilities and Emergency Prep

Having your own communication plan is important, but if you or a loved one are looking to enter a long-term care facility such as an assisted living center or nursing home, it’s important they have a plan in place as well.

Before you move into a care facility, or assist a loved one in doing so, ask about the facility’s disaster plans. How often are they updated? What disasters do their plans cover? This can help you decide what facility is the right fit, especially if you’re in an area with frequent hurricane strikes or other natural disasters.

Supplies in an Emergency

After information and communication plans, the other extremely vital consideration is supplies.

It’s again going to be impossible to be comprehensive, but governmental and emergency services agencies agree on many of the items you should have ready for a hurricane or other emergency including an emergency kit, medications, and food and water.

Having cash can also be crucial during a hurricane, since electronic forms of currency are less likely to work properly. FEMA suggests having enough cash for 30 days worth of essential living expenses.

Food & Water

Any food that requires refrigeration or freezing to keep, or complex cooking supplies to prepare won’t be viable in most emergencies.

Food that doesn’t require cooking and will last a long time is best. Canned goods are a good example of this type of food. They travel well and rarely require cooking to be edible.

For caregivers, some experts recommend a “hurricane meal night” to keep patients in the habit of occasionally eating canned goods that they’ll need to consume in the event of a hurricane.

Water can also be scarce in an emergency. Experts recommend one gallon per person per day. The exact amount you may need will depend on how many people you’re caring for, and what the expected length of the emergency will be. But this can give you a sense of what will be required during a hurricane.

Home Emergency Kit

If you’re eating canned goods, you need a can opener, right? Yes, but this is a good example of where people sometimes fail to plan properly. For example, an electric can opener won’t work during many emergencies. If a hurricane hits and you don’t have a manual can opener, that’s a lot of food that could be inaccessible.

Resources exist to help you pack an emergency kit. These kits can be useful regardless of whether you have to evacuate or stay in a home or care center. Recommended items include:

  • Flashlight
  • First Aid Kit
  • Extra Batteries
  • Whistle (to call for help/rescue)
  • Dust Masks
  • Plastic Sheeting & Duct Tape (for sheltering in place)
  • Charger and battery backup for cell phone(s)
  • Pliers and Manual Can Opener
  • Extra Clothing

For a full list of recommendations, check out our article on natural disaster preparedness or the government’s readiness site.

Evacuation Processes for Elderly and Those With Special Needs

If you are in an area and the authorities have called for a mandatory evacuation, it’s important to leave as soon as you’re ready. Delaying can be costly in several ways, delaying travel and increasing the risk of being caught in a hurricane.

So the first step in having an evacuation plan is making sure you know when you’ll need to evacuate.

Second is where you’re evacuating to. For caregivers, this might mean locating a special needs shelter that can accommodate those with skilled medical needs. Special needs shelters are generally coordinated on a county level, so this information should be prepared beforehand on a county-by-county basis.

As we mentioned earlier in regard to communication, you may also need to coordinate with family members or other loved ones to inform them of your evacuation plan.

Lastly, having a communication schedule with check-ins and emergency rendezvous points can help you stay in touch with important individuals.

Pets in an Emergency

If you own a pet, either as a household pet or therapy pet, you need to plan for them as well. Does your intended shelter accept pets? If not, a backup plan for them will be necessary.

Therapy pets are generally accepted in special needs shelters, but household pets are not. Regardless, it’s best to confirm before assuming that you’ll be able to shelter with them.

Pets can also inform what supplies you’ll want to have on hand. Your own food and water take precedence, but pet food and additional water for their needs should be taken into account. If your pet needs medication, this can also be important to add to a packing list or emergency kit.

The Aftermath of a Hurricane

Once a hurricane is over, the danger isn’t, nor is your responsibility as a caregiver. So it can be important to have a plan for this stage of the emergency as well.

Safety protocols for returning to a home or facility should be in place. Electrical equipment may be hazardous to use, and a building’s infrastructure may be compromised.

Protective equipment can be used to avoid potential illness (mold, asthma, etc.), but calling in local authorities to inspect the property may also be needed.

A patient may not be able to take these steps on their own, so documenting them for loved ones can be a valuable way to ensure that someone in need of care isn’t being asked to perform tasks beyond their ability.

The government’s preparedness information on hurricanes has a complete list of considerations for the aftermath of a hurricane. More than anything, it’s worth preparing a plan to take you all the way through the process, to avoid unnecessary risk or stress.

Staying Safe in a Hurricane

Hurricanes, by their very nature, are inherently unpredictable. However, the types of needs that you’re likely to have, and the difficulties in surviving a hurricane, are well-known. Information and resources exist to help anyone, including those with specialized caregiving needs and caregivers who are tasked with the safety of others.

Many of the information above, and related links to additional information, are among the resources available to anyone. 

However, these are meaningless unless you follow through by creating a plan of action and preparedness for a hurricane.

So that’s your next step. Gather the information you need, gather the supplies and checklists that will help you to stay safe and organized, and stay alert to hurricanes and the importance of preparedness.

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About the Author

Working with subject matter experts in the health and long-term care fields, Mark covers a variety of topics and industries related to health and aging.

LTC News Contributor Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson

Contributor since July 19th, 2023

Editor's Note

Just as one prepares for unpredictable disasters like hurricanes, it's equally essential, if not more so, to prepare for the foreseeable future of aging and its associated long-term care needs. Disasters like hurricanes might or might not strike, but aging is inevitable for all of us. As the years pass, the possibility of facing health challenges that require long-term care becomes increasingly probable. When such situations arise, the impacts aren't just personal; they reverberate through families, often exerting financial and emotional strains.


Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance emerges as a beacon of relief in this context. It ensures access to your preferred quality of care and offers the invaluable choice of receiving that care in the comfort of one's home. 


Moreover, an LTC policy protects hard-earned income and assets from potential depletion due to long-term care costs. But perhaps most importantly, it eases the emotional and logistical burden on family members, ensuring they're not overwhelmed by care responsibilities and can focus on quality time together.


The best time to navigate these waters and obtain LTC Insurance is well before retirement, ideally during one's 40s or 50s. By integrating Long-Term Care Insurance into retirement planning at these stages, individuals can benefit from lower premiums, broader choices, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing they're prepared for the future. Just as one wouldn't wait for storm clouds to gather before prepping for a hurricane, it's prudent to plan for the certainty of aging while the skies are still clear.


Use an Experienced Independent LTC Insurance Specialist 


Navigating the intricacies of Long-Term Care Insurance policies can be daunting, given the multitude of policy options and insurers. Engaging an independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist, preferably one with a Certification for Long-Term Care (CLTC) designation, can be invaluable in such circumstances.


Independent Insurance Brokers vs. Captive Agents: Key Differences When Choosing an Insurance Representative


These professionals possess extensive knowledge and expertise to guide you in choosing a policy that aligns with your needs and financial capacity. An LTC specialist will provide accurate quotes from leading companies using their experience and training. This differentiates a specialist from other financial professionals like general insurance agents, insurance company captive agents, and financial advisors. 


A CLTC-certified specialist has completed rigorous training focused on long-term health care planning. They are well-versed in the nuances of these insurance policies, the underwriting norms of different companies, and the regulations governing these policies at both the federal and state levels.

Their specialized knowledge enables them to help design a policy tailored to your specific needs. Moreover, they can align your age, health status, and family medical history with an insurer that offers the most comprehensive coverage at the most affordable rate. Given the variation in underwriting guidelines and premium rates across insurers, this matching process is pivotal.


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We're delighted to have you here at LTC NEWS! In addition to a wide selection of articles on aging, caregiving, health, lifestyle, long-term care, and retirement planning, we provide various tools and resources. Our goal is to offer educational content and guidance to assist you on your journey toward effective long-term care planning.


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