Preparing Seniors for Emergencies and Isolation

Any major change in the day-to-day lives of seniors can induce stress and anxiety. With the current coronavirus pandemic circling the world, this now more than ever emphasizes the need for us to help prepare our elderly parents and family members for any emergency that may arise.

When we think of how to help the elderly overall, many of us reflect on how we would help our own senior parents.
Here are a few preliminary steps to be prepared.

Emergency Kit – Building an emergency kit can slightly vary for each person, but here are some universal supplies that will come in handy.
Water – Have enough water reserved for at least 7 days (1 gallon per person).
Stock Up on Non-perishable Food Items –Minimize the stress of not having enough on hand. Canned soups, pasta, sauces, cereal, canned vegetables and fruit are all good basic items. Non-dairy almond milk can be kept on the shelf until opened.
Medical Information – If they need medical attention, be sure they have all the necessary information for medical teams. This goes for anyone in your family; however, when someone is elderly they may not remember all the necessary information in an emergency. We recommend getting a Vial of Life kit. This is an invaluable tool for anyone.  It is a free service and it has been created to reduce panic during an emergency situation. Basically, it helps you compile all your medical information into one place, including a copy of an EKG, living will or equivalent, DNR form, power of attorney, and a recent picture of yourself or loved one.

Jeffrey C. Miller, Director of Vial of Life Project says, “People find themselves in emergencies that make it difficult to think straight. At these times, all emergency personnel who are trying to help you need to know many things about you – especially if you have a complex medical history. Medical and emergency staff will want to know things like who you are… what medications you are using… what illnesses you have… who is your emergency contact person… what is your normal blood pressure… are you wearing hearing or seeing devices… do you speak English… and, if not, what language do you speak?” If your parent cannot be an advocate for themselves and you are not able to be there for them, have this put in place first and foremost.

Pre-packaged Medicines – Make sure that they have all the medications they’ll need for two to three months. If they need help organizing them, you can order from Pill Pack. Daily dosages are pre-packaged and sent to them monthly. They can even supply inhalers and insulin. If your loved one needs oxygen, has incontinence, goes to dialysis or needs wound care, make sure you know how to help get supplies and treatment.

Providing Connectivity
Many seniors have been living in social isolation long before it became obligatory, but when an emergency situation arises they will undoubtedly feel more anxious. Having virtual forms of communications set up ahead of time will help alleviate that extra stress.

Support Network – make sure they have a list of people they can call if an emergency arises. It may be wise to have numbers and names printed out and put in an obvious place like on the refrigerator or next to their bed. Additionally, make sure numbers are inputted into their cell phone and add a photo of the person to help jog their memory.

Phones, iPads, or Computers – Set up their devices ahead of time so they can speak to you directly through FaceTime. Boomer Tech Talk has a great piece “How to Set Up and iPad for Elderly Use” along with great tips to keep in mind including saving passwords, keeping security questions written down, and making sure your own email is used for back up. In addition to just chatting on Facetime, it is even possible to play chess via video together, get grandchildren to share their latest art project, or even cook something while on camera.

Set Up A Schedule – Work on a plan for your parents to talk to specific family members on different days. Create a schedule together and get the whole family involved. Our associates at Maplewood talk about how important that has become lately. Residents really miss that social interaction and once they know they will be speaking to someone every other day or so, it gives them something to look forward to. We’ve heard of many grandparents enjoying watching their grandchildren perform little shows for them, singing, or even just showing them a craft or gardening project. Any form of connectivity will help reduce loneliness and isolation.

Remember that these tools for moments of crisis and isolation may change over time depending on your parent’s health and/or level of memory loss. Review every six months to see how they are coping and make adjustments accordingly. Their situation can change quickly and it is wise to continue to evaluate regularly.

At Maplewood Senior Living the health and wellbeing of our residents is our top priority during this time of crisis and we too are incorporating the same ideas into the day to day life of our communities. As a result of not being open for tours at this time, you can alternatively take a virtual tour of any of our communities. Please contact us today.

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