Emergency Preparedness – Let’s Strike up the Conversation!
—Frankie Sherwood, CSUS Gerontology Intern with Elder Options
Last December, my grandmother was evacuated from her assisted living facility during the Rye Fire in Saugus, CA. Residents and staff were forced to spend a total of 12 days away from the senior living community. Staff and volunteers from the community worked to safely evacuate a total of 94 older residents while fires burned around the property. This started to get me thinking, am I ready to evacuate my house at any given moment? If the assisted living facility was unprepared evacuating the residents, what are the chances that older adults living in their homes are prepared? According to research, only about twenty percent of the senior population in the United States has an emergency plan (Al-Rousan, 2014). It is important to strike up the conversation with older adults to ensure they know what to do in the event of an emergency. The three most important keys to a successful evacuation include education, awareness and training.
An important aspect of being prepared for an emergency is understanding what types of disasters are most common for your location. In California, the three most common disasters occurring include earthquakes, landslides, and wildfires. The second part of educating yourself or your loved one about emergencies is what it takes to prepare for an emergency before it strikes, during the emergency, and after the disaster is over. Before an emergency happens be sure to have an emergency” to-go” bag packed with important supplies such as medications, assistive devices, important documents, and extra cash. During an emergency, be sure to evacuate as soon as a warning is issued and stay alert for any additional updates from emergency services. After an emergency is over, be sure to first reach out to family and friends notifying them of your safety status, and then document all property damage.
Being aware of emergencies occurring anywhere is made possible through your fingertips by downloading the free smart phone app “CodeRED”. CodeRED is fully integrated with the integrated public about warning systems (IPAWS) to send alerts via the emergency alert system (EAS), wireless emergency alerts (WEA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)This app is designed to easily deliver geo-targeted time-sensitive information to any individual using voice calls, text messages, emails, and more. This app can also be beneficial to families with loved ones living far away, because they can sign up to receive emergency notifications from the location of their long distance loved one. This can assure safety and a peace of mind for families knowing the status of their long distance loved one’s community at all times.
Knowing how to quickly approach an emergency evacuation with a cognitively impaired older adult can be a challenge if you do not know how to properly address this population. Older people may fear being removed from their homes and it is imperative to be sympathetic, understanding, and explain that this relocation is only temporary. Older adults with dementia may repeat themselves and their questions when placed in a stressful situation. It is important for first responders, care providers, and families to be patient and repeat questions and answers to the older adult. Taking the time to carefully listen and explain again what is going on may take less time than getting a confused person to cooperate. If you are evacuating a person with dementia be sure not to leave the person alone, as they will be more prone to wandering away and getting lost.
In an emergency, it is important to try and remain calm. With the right information to prepare yourself or your loved one and the right resources you will be able to properly prepare for an emergency. The rates of natural disasters are on the rise every year along with the growing older adult population. Being properly prepared for an emergency, and knowing how to properly prepare an older adult will save many lives.
Frankie is a recent graduate of the CSUS Gerontology Program. During her schooling, she completed an internship at Elder Options, Inc. At Elder Options she shadowed the Care Manager of the Day, assisted with assessments in addition to accompanying the CM on home visits in the field. Frankie has found a passion for Care Management, which stems from her enjoyment of assisting the older population remain independent for as long as possible.