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Prepare Now to Keep Elderly Loved Ones Safe in a Disaster

Prepare Now to Keep Elderly Loved Ones Safe in a Disaster

By Candy Cohn, CSA®, owner Oasis Senior Advisors South Florida

August 2021 brought two tropical storms to the US: Fred, which made landfall in the Florida panhandle, and Henri, which impacted New England after making landfall in Rhode Island. While both of these storms had relatively minimal impact, they highlight the importance of being prepared for hurricanes and other natural disasters.

As an Oasis Senior Advisor in South Florida, hurricanes are an unpleasant reality, just like tornadoes in the Midwest, blizzards and superstorms in the North, or earthquakes and wildfires in the West. Yet, despite the fact that we usually have advance notice of a natural disaster, many people still find themselves scrambling to make arrangements. Planning for a crisis—whether it’s a natural disaster or an accident inside the home—is imperative when caring for older adults.

Tens of thousands of Floridians found themselves unprepared in 2017 as Hurricane Irma was approaching the Florida peninsula. As the storm grew, the situation became especially threatening for many elderly people, some of whom ended up in shelters unequipped to provide the care they needed, while others were stuck at home without electricity or proper provisions. 

Since Oasis Senior Advisors helps people find senior living communities in a time of need, we received calls from friends and clients who were panicking when it became clear that Hurricane Irma was going to have a big impact on our area. One call was from a family who lives out of state. Their 88-year-old mother lives in the Boca Raton area, and needed to find a way for her to stay safe during the hurricane. They also wanted to make sure she did not lose electricity for her oxygen concentrator machine, which is vital in order for her to breathe. 

Like all Oasis Senior Advisors, we have a strong local network of great connections in the industry, and with a dedicated effort we were able to find an assisted living community that had a room available for our client but the task was challenging, as many people were scrambling to find a place for a senior loved one during this natural disaster and vying for empty rooms. 

My own mother lives in an assisted living community, which, along with many communities Oasis Senior Advisors South Florida dealt with during the hurricane, handled it very well. Florida’s state regulations have tightened up since Hurricane Irma due to many seniors who did not fare as well as our client noted above. On March 26, 2018, Gov. Scott signed legislation (SB 7028 and HB 7099) requiring emergency generators at all Florida nursing homes and assisted living communities. Florida is now one of the few states in the country to require emergency generators.

The senior living communities OSA South Florida works with also have hurricane impact glass or hurricane shutters that meet code, up-to-date evacuation plans, procedures for getting meals to the residents if it’s deemed unsafe for people to leave their apartments, and numerous other systems in place for emergencies like hurricanes. It’s important to consider the types of emergencies that occur in your state, and to ask about associated protocols and plans when understanding senior living options, for either a permanent move, or as a contingency plan in case a natural disaster happens.. 

Although we know that disasters can strike at any time, most of us choose to believe that we won’t experience a crisis like a hurricane, tornado, superstorm or other natural disaster. However, a small amount of advance planning can often make the difference between life and death. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires that all long-term care communities that receive funding develop and maintain an emergency preparedness plan. Families should do the same for loved ones who live at home or live independently, to ensure that their needs will continue to be met in a crisis. For resources about writing a disaster plan, visit ready.gov

If you are a senior or serve seniors in your business, please start to plan for their needs now! Don’t wait for the crisis, whether it’s the impending hurricane, or a slip and fall that ends up as a broken hip with a hospitalization. It’s much better to become educated and make viable choices when time is on your side. Oasis Senior Advisors across the country have helped countless families in dire situations and are here for you, rain or shine.

Oasis Senior Advisors works to connect health care providers, caregivers, older adults and their families to senior living and resources that care for our aging population. To learn more about how an Oasis Senior Advisor can provide needed resources at no cost, call (888) 455-5838. One call can offer many solutions for a senior in need.