Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and now Maria have affected so many people over the last few weeks. Here in Florida, we’ve spent the last 2-3 weeks preparing, waiting for, and then recovering from Hurricane Irma. While my household was extremely lucky and we’re safe and sound, we have family scattered throughout various parts of Florida that are still without power and/or assessing property damage and dealing with recovery efforts. We know the devastation from Irma and Maria was much more severe for many of the Caribbean islands, so we are grateful that all our family in Florida, Puerto Rico, and The Bahamas are safe.
The mental toll that a hurricane can take on you is something I don’t want to ignore, though. I think this was the first time I truly realized just how exhausting – mentally and physically – dealing with a natural disaster can be. While this was not my first go-round with a hurricane, I think it may have been my first major one as a mother and with a house of my own. Add to that the role of distant caregiver to my parents and the mental fatigue seriously kicked in as I felt responsible for ensuring that not only were WE prepared to deal with a category 3-5 hurricane, but that my mother 2 hours away was too.
Prepping for a Hurricane with Aging Parents: Things to Think About
- Is evacuating their home an actual, viable option for your parents? Where will they be the safest and most comfortable – at home, at a relative’s or friend’s home, in a hotel, or in a shelter? (For the purpose of this post and since I can only speak from personal experience, the remaining scenarios are based on parents staying in their own home for a storm.)
- If staying home, will your parents have enough food and water to last during and after the storm passes, especially if there’s no electricity or water?
- Who will help them purchase food and hurricane supplies before the storm arrives? If stores are already running out of stock, how can you be sure your parents have what they need?
- Who will ensure that the house is properly prepared and secured to weather the storm? Again, if plywood is out of stock in stores, how will windows be protected? If left unprotected, what is the backup plan?
- Do they have a safe room in case of tornado warnings?
- If a parent is bed-ridden and the bed doesn’t fit in the safe room, what will be the plan for tornadoes?
- Do they have a list of informational and emergency numbers to call?
- Do your parents have all necessary medication and prescriptions on-hand and enough to last a couple of weeks?
- Are neighbors aware of their status and willing to check-in on them before and after the storm?
- Have you exchanged numbers with neighbors for such situations and emergencies?
- If electricity is lost during the storm, will your parents be able to withstand several days or even weeks without air conditioning? How might this affect their health?
- Do they need electricity for medical equipment?
- Once the storm passes, who will help assess property damage?
- Who will be available to help clean up debris or make minor repairs around the home?
- Will they need assistance in restocking the fridge and/or getting rid of spoiled food from power outages?
- Are they dealing well with the stress of the storm (before, during, and after)?
This list is by no means exhaustive; I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten to mention. There are many things to think about when preparing for a major tropical storm or hurricane, especially if you have aging parents or are the caregiver to an elderly person. While it might seem logical to evacuate the elderly to a shelter due to their special needs, it may not always be the best option. In the case of my dad, he is bed-ridden and has dementia. Taking him to a crowded shelter would be super confusing for him, causing more stress on his mind and body than is necessary. Additionally, the logistics of spending a couple of nights in a public space with him in a medical bed are basically impossible and highly uncomfortable for all involved (at best).
It can be overwhelming to prepare for a hurricane so it’s important that our aging parents and loved ones receive our support and help. They will need both physical and emotional help in getting everything ready and secure for braving a hurricane and for what comes after the storm. As a family, it’s best to discuss ahead of time and have an emergency plan in place for when a tropical storm or hurricane is expected. You can then review it with your parents and involved caregivers to see if it’s still the best option and make any necessary revisions.
Do you have any tips you can share in prepping for a hurricane with aging parents?
All photos and videos © Melanie Edwards/modernmami™