How to Prepare for a Home Emergency with the Elderly

Contributed by Trisha Miller

When making the choice to give family members care from home it may be intimidating to know exactly what to do when disaster strikes. Preparation is key to assessing just how critical the situation may be and how to properly address it. Small tasks like planning escape routes with your family member or putting together a first aid kit can go a long way to being prepared for any emergency. However, understanding when a loved one needs a little bit more help could be the remedy for a serious home injury.


Talk With a Loved One About Their Mobility

The vast majority of home injuries are from preventable falls. According to the CDC, about one of every three people over the age of 65 falls each year and less than half talk to their doctor about it. Although it may be a difficult conversation to have, this topic of discussion is vital to the stability of a loved one receiving in-home care. Various improvements can be made in the home to support the mobility of someone aging in the home. In many cases, home modifications are less expensive than the monthly cost of assisted living. The simple installation of a hand railing and making access to stools, canes, walkers, and wheelchairs easier can undoubtedly save a life. In addition, someone with limited mobility may benefit greatly from a motorized chair or stair lift. In any case, talking with a loved one about their mobility and comfort level will set the standard for a stress-free and safe household.


Plan an Escape Route

Every member of a household should know exactly where to go and who to call if a fire, severe storm, or other natural disaster occurs. An unfortunate truth is that those over the age of 65 are twice as likely to perish in a home fire. What’s more, one quarter of all people with mobility problems were unable to save themselves during an emergency. In the case of memory loss from a disease such as Alzheimer’s, keeping an easy-to-read map with current escape routes in plain sight is the best plan of action. Included on this emergency sheet should be numbers of local police, caregivers, hospital assistance, and family members in case of an incident. Phones should be placed in at least every large room in the home in case a family member is trapped, due to a fire or injury, and needs to quickly call for help. For anyone with sight or hearing impairments, plan and execute the escape routine as many times as possible as if it was actually happening. Placing markers along the way will also allow a visual and tactile confirmation that the person is on the right path. This will familiarize the individual with the route and optimize the safest possible exit.


Make a First-Aid Kit

Buying a first-aid kit from the store will do just fine for most small injuries, but making one at home can potentially cover much more. Including things disposable phones, prescription medication, and even an emergency necklace or watch can provide substantial protection during a frightening accident or emergency. Any necessary medical equipment, such as blood sugar testing devices, extra hearing aids and batteries, a spare pair of glasses, and current medical treatment documentation could be a lifesaver in a crisis scenario. Lastly, keeping a ready to go disaster bag with essentials like clothing, water bottles, and easily consumable food could be the answer for anyone that could end up stranded for a period of time.

In the end, memorizing the steps will make it much easier to remember when the information is truly needed. Run through any plans and routes regularly to keep the information fresh in mind. Discuss their confidence in accomplishing the tasks and practice these scenarios until your loved one is comfortable with these situations. Tailoring the experience to their needs and preferences will ensure secure escape during a strenuous time as well as ease your mind when you are away from your loved one.