NJ Red Cross National Preparedness Month: Older adults are more vulnerable in disasters

28 Sep 2020 | 07:00

According to new research from the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and the American Academy of Nursing, older adults are more vulnerable and experience more casualties after a natural disaster compared to other age groups. That’s why this National Preparedness Month, the Red Cross encourages everyone, especially older adults, to get ready for emergencies.

Being prepared for disasters is important for people of all ages. But there are several factors that make older adults more vulnerable during a natural disaster:

● Older adults may have more chronic conditions and medication concerns.

● They may be more dependent on assistive devices like walkers and eyeglasses, and support from caregivers.

● Living in social isolation can also make them more vulnerable.

We all care deeply about the older adults in our lives, and during the pandemic they are more vulnerable than ever. “Now is the time to ask if they need help assessing their needs and making a plan, before an emergency occurs.

To be prepared, older adults should think about what they would do during a disaster before it occurs. Understand how your medical, physical and cognitive needs may affect your ability to respond if you had to stay in your home for two weeks or more or had to evacuate. Building a support network and identifying helpers such as family, friends, neighbors, caregivers and care providers who may be able to assist is vital. Older adults should meet with these supporters and decide how to communicate in an emergency.

Additional research findings and resources, including our new Disaster and Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults checklist and booklet, are available at redcross.org/olderadults.

Preparing for emergencies is a little different this year, but the three basic action steps remain the same for everyone: Build a Kit, Make a Plan and Be Informed. Assemble two kits of emergency supplies (a stay-at-home kit and an evacuation kit) and a one-month supply of prescription medication. Include personal hygiene items, cleaning and disinfectant supplies and cloth face coverings. Some supplies may be hard to get due to the pandemic, and availability may worsen in a disaster, so start gathering supplies now.

Disasters can force people to leave their homes, even in areas under stay-at-home mandates. By having an emergency plan your family can react quickly if a disaster strikes.

● Ask friends or relatives outside your area if you would be able to stay with them.

● Check and see if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or have people in their home at higher risk for serious illness. If they do, make other arrangements.

● Check with hotels, motels and campgrounds to see if they are open and if pets are allowed.

● Due to the pandemic, stay current on advice and restrictions from your state and local public health authorities as it may affect your actions, available resources and shelter facilities.

● Learn first aid and CPR skills so you’ll know what to do until emergency help arrives.

● Download the free Red Cross Emergency App for weather alerts and information on what to do before, during and after disasters.

Additional resources for preparing during the COVID-19 pandemic are available at redcross.org/coronavirus.

Rosie Taravella, CEO

American Red Cross New Jersey Region