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5 Ways Family Caregivers Can Prepare for Hurricane Season

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By Lauren Hart from

Hurricane season began on June 1, and experts are predicting an extremely active season for 2013. Already we've had one named storm hit the east coast. Devastating storm systems in the Midwest also remind us that we need to be prepared for extreme weather emergencies -- especially when it comes to caring for seniors with medical needs and limited mobility.

"It's really important to get a kit, make a plan, and be informed," says Anne Marie Borrego, a Red Cross spokesperson. A recent survey the Red Cross conducted with the Weather Channel found that in the growing number of households with family members requiring special medical attention or equipment, such as oxygen or a walker, only one in four felt they had an adequate plan in place to meet their needs in an emergency.

But all it takes is some careful planning ahead and a little organization to help ensure that your loved one will be safe and ready. Here are five practical tips to make sure you're prepared well before a storm is on the way.

1. Get organized. Make sure you have copies of all relevant emergency contacts and medical documents in one folder, including detailed medication lists and an up-to-date medical history describing allergies and other health concerns.

2. Stock up. The Red Cross recommends keeping a two-week supply of water (1 gallon per person per day) and nonperishable food items in the house. Flashlights, extra batteries, and a hand-crank radio are also essential, but don't forget to stock up on prescription medication too. Keep at least one extra week's worth of medication and medical supplies on hand.

3. Establish a personal support network. If your loved one lives alone, make sure he or she has a well-established network of local family, friends, or neighbors who can help prepare the home ahead of time, and check in during or after a storm. Exchange sets of keys, show others where emergency supplies and medical information are located, and agree on ways to maintain contact in case phone lines are down.

4. Make a plan. Even if you're organized and have a stock of supplies, it's also important to have a well-established plan in place before a storm hits. Sit down with your loved one and talk about your emergency plan. Make sure you have a strategy for how you'll reunite if there is an evacuation and how you'll contact each other if there is no phone service. Make sure you have a place your loved one can stay that's comfortable and adequate to his or her needs.

5. Know when to evacuate. Pay attention to the local news. "If your local officials say evacuate, do not delay," Borrego says. Leaving early means beating the rush and spending less time on the road. Pack bags ahead of time with all necessary items for a few days away. The Red Cross will have shelters nearby that can accommodate individuals with basic medical needs, but making arrangements for your loved one to stay with friends or family will be more comfortable.

For more tips and checklists to ensure that your loved one's needs will be met in an emergency, go to the Red Cross's webpage on emergency preparedness for seniors, where you can download a guide on disaster preparedness for seniors, by seniors.

You can also check out the Senior Emergency Kit, which you can use to organize essential information about doctors, insurance plans, medications, and other important details.

Last revised: July 19, 2013

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