While hurricane season started six weeks ago, it’s the next 6-8 weeks that typically matter the most to those of us in Hillsborough County. That’s the time when we are most likely to incur a storm in our area. So, that means time is running out for those of us that have not already started preparing.
We are all aware of the need to prepare ahead of time for such events, however, for those of us caring for a family member that is disabled, recovering from a hospital stay, or a senior adult that can’t get around much anymore, having a plan and acting on it is doubly important. They have very special needs and if you don’t plan ahead, the effect of a storm on them could be extremely disruptive. This is just a quick note to get your attention so don’t expect an all inclusive list but here are a few highlights along with some other resources you may want to review for a more comprehensive inventory of tools and actions to take:
Medicines- You should have a 30 day supply of medications on hand and extra copies of your prescriptions. If you appear to be running low, check your medicine container for the number of refills remaining on the prescription. Call your physician early to get him/her to authorize additional refills. There are also special laws in place that allow pharmacies to provide an extra 30 days of medication once a state of emergency is proclaimed for your county. Contact your doctor or pharmacy early to see how this works and if your prescription fits the parameters outlined in the law.
Water, Water, and More Water- this is important to all of us but especially important for senior adults. As we age, we do not handle the heat as well
Special Needs Shelters- if your loved one has a severe handicap and/or medical problem they may need to be hospitalized as a storm approaches in order to ensure they obtain the proper care. For those that do not require hospitalization but have significant health challenges, there are a number of special needs shelters in Hillsborough County. These Special Need Shelters are different from your neighborhood shelters in that they are set up and staffed to assist residents whose medical condition is such that it exceeds the capabilities of the Red Cross Shelters in your neighborhood. While they will attempt to assist you during the crisis, it is much preferred that you register prior to any emergency so that they can assess your needs on a proactive basis and ensure that you receive the level of care you really need. You can register on line at http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/emergency/progresservices/specialneeds.cfm or you call the Hillsborough County Infoline at (813) 272-5900 and they can mail you a registration form.
To Evacuate or Not to Evacuate- if you are in an evacuation zone, you may be required to evacuate by law. If not legally required to evacuate you may want to stay put…if you have the proper resources on hand as it is usually more dangerous to be on the road than at home during a hurricane. Also, as we saw a few years ago, these storms can be very unpredictable and you may actually find yourself traveling into the storm instead of away from it. If you need to evacuate, you need to evaluate if your loved ones needs the resources of a special needs shelter or a hospital. Again, this should be evaluated and planned for well in advance of any storm and you should already be registered beforehand.
Health Insurance Coverage- if you are going to be leaving the state, you may want to check to determine how your loved one’s health insurance works in the state you are going to (eg if they are on a HMO how do you handle getting the permission of their primary physician)?
Adult Briefs- baby diapers are probably on your list if you have young children but if you have senior adults that are incontinent you need to make certain you have a supply of adult briefs as well
Establishing a Routine – Seniors with Alzheimer’s (or children with Autism) need structure and routine. Planning ahead is vital. Having games to play and things to do that don’t require electricity is important.
Divert Their Attention- catastrophic events can be very unsettling for those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Try to minimize their exposure to TV and radio broadcasts that constantly delve on the storm
Can Openers- manual can openers are a must
Battery Powered Hand Fans with little squirt guns attached- while not the perfect solution they can be a fun item for your children and a must have for older adults who may be overly affected by the heat.
Driver License/Copy of Utility Bills/Caregiver Authority to Enter the Area- if you have to evacuate, chances are the emergency authorities may restrict access to your community after the storm to just those that live in the area. You will need to supply them with proof of residence (drivers license, copy of a recent utility bill, etc.). If you have a family member or hired professional coming to assist you in caring for your loved one, they may need some kind of written note from you proving they should be allowed into the neighborhood.
Pets- don’t forget your pets too. They need to be planned for. There are two pet friendly shelters in the county. See http://www.petfriendlu.com or call 800-916-3752
Preparation- All of the experts suggest that you create a plan and a list of required items and then that you start purchasing the items over the course of the summer rather than all at once just before the storm arrives. This makes it easier to budget and easier to transport.
Disaster Preparedness Guide for Elders http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us
Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities— This is a Red Cross publication
Senior Sentinel—Call the Department of Aging Services 813-272-6630
Hillsborough County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) http://www.floridacert.com/