Caring for Seniors in a Storm

Natural disasters often hit with little warning. Even the most prepared families wonder if there is more they can do to protect themselves as storms approach.  Those caring for elderly loved ones often carry an even greater responsibility as they work to protect the safety and health of our priceless treasures, senior citizens.

Please take the time to plan for your elderly friends, family members and loved ones, many of whom are in good health but may have certain limitations. Their physical and emotional stability is crucial in times of stress.


Step 1: Create an Emergency Plan

Meet with family, friends and elderly loved ones to discuss a plan of action to implement when a disaster strikes. Natural disasters can cause families to evacuate or be confined to their homes, so creating a well-oiled plan is imperative.

  • Discuss and revise your plan annually to assess any physical changes or limitations that may require alterations to the plan.
  • Whether living at home alone, with a caregiver or in a senior living community, discuss this plan with a support network: Caregiver, Senior Living Administrator, family member or neighbor.
  • Establish a communication plan: Designate one local contact and one out-of-town contact to call during or after a disaster. Long-distance calls may be easier to make when local areas are impacted.
  • Share a house key with a friend or family member.
  • Stay or Go: Monitor news reports to learn of mandatory evacuations and have a designated friend or family member to travel or stay with. If living at a senior living community, ask for a copy of the emergency evacuation plan and communication strategy.
  • Become familiar with local senior living communities that offer respite care. Attend community events, tour the property or “try it out” during a respite stay to become acquainted with the director and residents. This may help secure a respite room during a natural disaster, as these accommodations are highly sought after.

Step 2: Prepare a Supply Kit

In the event of an evacuation or staying put, older Americans must be prepared with ample supplies, according to FEMA, for at least three days.


  • At least one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. Older Americans are more susceptible to dehydration, so prepare accordingly.
  • Battery-operated fans to prevent heat exhaustion due to lack of air conditioning.
  • Non-perishable food and can opener.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries: The elderly population is at risk of falls, so have battery-operated lights in bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • First aid kit: This is vital in treating skin tears and other wounds.
  • Pet supplies: Your loved one may not be able to care for his or her pet during a natural disaster, so ensure pet food, extra water and pet supplies are stocked.

Healthcare Supplies & Documents:

  • Medication supply of at least one week.
  • Copy of medical insurance and all prescriptions and dosage/treatment information: Consult your pharmacist or doctor to see how you can prepare your mediations in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Moist towelettes, wipes, incontinence supplies, garbage bags and ties for personal sanitation: This is vital to prevent urinary tract infections.
  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids, oxygen, etc.: Have extras and batteries.
  • Emergency documents: Have copies of all advance directives, including DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). Store the following in a waterproof container: power of attorney documents, wills, bank information, social security card, birth certificate, deeds, and medical provider contact information.

Step 3: Be Informed

If living in a senior living community, it is still important to be aware of evacuation plans and disaster notification plans. Speak with the community director or administrator for information.

  • NOAA Weather Radio: These radios provide early warnings of weather emergencies.
  • Have local emergency and contact phone numbers posted in a safe, visible place.
  • Be aware of your neighbors who may need assistance: Seniors living alone are at risk, so help to inform them of an impending disaster.