Tips for preparing, caring for seniors during storm season

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Hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Hurricanes, or any natural disasters, have a devastating impact on cities, people and communities.

But one segment of the population - the elderly - is particularly vulnerable when disaster strikes. Seniors suffering with Alzheimer's and dementia are even more at risk, due in part to their need for familiarity and routine, as well as their reluctance to seek help because of fear that it will threaten their independence.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew (2016) and the recent close call with Hurricane Dorian, Senior Helpers, a national franchise of in-home senior caregiver services, has put together a list of tips to help families and communities care for elders in preparing for a potential disaster.

Emergency planning:

• Decide where (and if) you and your senior will go in the event an evacuation order is announced. If you have no free place to stay, consider making hotel reservations in another town as soon as an impending hurricane starts heading for our coast. Once the evacuation order is announced, hotel availability becomes scarce. If you end up not having to evacuate, you can usually cancel the reservation at no charge with enough notice.

• Prepare an emergency contact list with relatives, doctors, pharmacies, insurance companies, banks, helplines and the local Red Cross.

• Ask your aging loved one's doctor to prescribe regular medications to be kept on-hand for emergency situations.

• Prepare a disaster kit with medications, medical records, clothing, toiletries, water, etc. You might also include familiar photos, a favorite blanket or other small comfort items, as many seniors are resistant and do not react well to change.

• Provide your senior with an identification bracelet that has an emergency contact on it to help emergency responders identify preexisting conditions easier.

• Have medical records made available electronically. Many seniors have existing medical conditions that will still require monitoring and treatment during and after evacuation. Electronic medical records can aid in seniors receiving continued treatment.

• Research and locate the nearest "special needs" shelter that can assist citizens with medical needs during an emergency. You usually need to pre-register and meet criteria for these shelters.

Jennifer Redmond is the family care coordinator for Senior Helpers of Hilton Head Island. jredmond@seniorhelpers.com.

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