While we enjoyed the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament under blue skies and mild temperatures, Boston was experiencing 32 inches of snow and other parts of the Northeast were being pummeled by severe storms. Emergencies that knock out power and disrupt communications can leave seniors vulnerable — particularly those living alone.
Being prepared for emergencies is especially important for seniors who have special medical needs. Diabetes, previous strokes, respiratory illness and other chronic medical conditions that require medication place seniors at higher risk during emergencies when they may be isolated for a period of time.
After Hurricane Sandy left widespread flooding and power outages, many seniors, who had previously lived independently in a home or apartment, opted to move into senior living accommodations. Many older residents had experienced hours or days without contact and felt that moving into senior communities would provide them with more help and support in emergency situations.
While the chances of being struck by disabling storms here on the coast of California are relatively slim, earthquakes and the possibility of resulting tsunamis should be a concern to all of us. Seniors, especially, should be prepared.
Here are some emergency planning tips to consider if you are a senior and live alone:
· Set up a buddy system.
Making sure someone knows you are alone in a home and that you may need help in an emergency is extremely important. While law enforcement and other emergency workers do the best they can to check on residents, it may take hours or days to get to you.
· When you plan for an emergency, organize as if you will not be able to verbally communicate your needs to emergency personnel. Make a list of any health challenges you have and the medications required.
· Smartphones have an emergency call icon that, when pressed, connects you to 911. In addition to calling 911, your phone can be programed to provide "In Case of Emergency" (ICE) contact information. These listings can be put into the "I" section of your phone's contacts. For instance, you would input ICE Fred or ICE Carol. First responders will be able to reach your emergency contacts quickly.
· Finally, be prepared to shelter in place. Have water, batteries, blankets and enough medication to last a week or more.
While these tips are helpful, they are far from all you need to do to prepare for an emergency. Contact your local law enforcement agencies for further help in constructing an emergency plan. Most agencies have emergency preparedness kits they can either give or sell to you.
Calling your local agency gives you the added benefit of making a contact, so if there is an emergency, the agency may remember you could be at risk — and they may make a special effort to reach you.
Liza Horvath has over 30 years' experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-5262.