The importance of preparing

With hurricane season officially upon us, all Florida residents must be prepared with supplies, a list of key contacts and a variety of plans: to take care of pets, for family members to find one another, to ensure others are safe, if utilities are unavailable and for evacuation. And when it comes to caring for hospice patients, it becomes even more challenging to ensure their safety and comfort when natural disasters threaten.

Mobility limitations, depleted supplies, the need for additional medical equipment and lack of access to professional caregivers during a crisis can make emergency preparations particularly stressful. But we have found early planning can help to ensure the needs of patients are met effectively.

If you have a loved one who is receiving home health or hospice care at home, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when developing your hurricane plan.

Know the basics:

  • Where are the shut-off valves for your household utilities?
  • Do you have a list of the most crucial emergency and personal phone numbers on hand?
  • Do you and your neighbors know each other well enough to check on each other?
  • Where is the nearest emergency shelter?
  • What route would you take during an evacuation?

Have your emergency supplies ready:

  • Do you have the most crucial “stay-at-home” supplies to last at least 14 days? These include water, canned food and manual can opener, flashlight, portable radio, batteries, first aid kit, waterproof matches, sufficient prescriptions, cell phone and solar charging kit and some cash.
  • You should also prepare an evacuation bag that includes personal hygiene items, good walking shoes, blankets/sleeping bags, travel food, dust masks, extra pair of glasses, and lists of crucial contacts and medications list. Is your car’s gas tank full? And do you have enough food and water for your pet(s)?

Make a personal plan:

  • In advance of an emergency, ask your healthcare provider the following questions: How will services continue to be delivered during and after a disaster?  If power is lost, what should you do if you require electricity for medical equipment, keeping medicine cold, air conditioning and other needs?
  • You’ll need to assess your loved one’s special needs and challenges and determine how to best meet them. In cases of reduced mobility, you may want to register with the local fire department or office of emergency services for special assistance. Perhaps you can invest in an unpowered wheelchair for emergency use.
  • Be sure to have a personal support network – this can include relatives, neighbors, friends and/or co-workers – who can check to see if your family needs assistance. They should know your needs and capabilities and be close enough to provide help quickly.
  • If you will need to relocate to a special needs shelter during a storm you will need to register before there is an emergency. Visit the Pinellas County Emergency website for details.

When the storm is over:

Be sure you are aware of resources to help once the storm has passed. Your list of contacts should include local resources where you can apply for assistance.

  • If you evacuate, the Eldercare Locator can help you find a wide range of services and providers anywhere in the country.
  • Be sure that, if you evacuate, you provide your care provider with the contact information for the individual or location to which you are evacuating so that they can stay abreast of your care and whereabouts.

There is no way to be prepared for every single contingency should a hurricane strike our area. But by planning ahead, you and your loved ones will have the best chance of safely and comfortably “weathering the storm.”

Suncoast Hospice patients and caregivers should refer to their ‘Patient and Family Guide’ for further disaster preparedness instructions.

Please do not hesitate to call us at (727) 467-7423 if you have any questions or would like our feedback on your hurricane plan.

Suggested resources:
Hurricane Preparedness: A Guide for Hospice Patients & Caregivers

Emergency Readiness for Older Adults and Caregivers

FEMA’s Family Emergency Plan