GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

November 15, 2012

Senior Lookout: Sandy reminds us all of need for preparedness

We dodged a bullet a couple of weeks ago.

But the next bad storm might take better aim on Cape Ann than Hurricane Sandy did.

One lesson we can glean from our neighbors in the Mid-Atlantic region is that seniors are often the least prepared for such emergencies.

When the power goes off, elevators and oxygen machines don’t run; heat, phone, and lights may be off; emergency response units don’t function; food and water may dwindle quickly, and seniors can find themselves in a difficult situation with little assistance from others, virtually trapped in their homes or apartments.

Even those who consider themselves relatively mobile, because they still drive, can have difficulty if ATM’s and gas pumps aren’t working and they’re unable to walk the distance to the nearest store.

For elderly people with chronic illnesses, mobility issues or cognitive impairments, the dangers of mega storms, or other disasters, are not trivial. Statistics show that elders often die in disproportionate numbers to other age groups in disaster situations, possibly because, without computer access or transportation, they may not be able to take advantage of shelters that are miles from home or emergency instructions delivered over the Internet.

In many areas, an area agency on aging, disability agency, senior center, day care center or other facility that is familiar with their own consumers tries to locate the older adult to verify his or her status or to offer help. Care Managers and other staff at SeniorCare cooperate with local senior centers and police departments to identify and serve those of their consumers who, by virtue of their physical frailty or lack of family assistance, might need shelter, or a wellness check.

Participants in the Meals on Wheels service from SeniorCare can receive several shelf-stable emergency meals, in advance, to keep on hand in their homes in case of power failures. However, individuals who aren’t already being served by a senior center, or other care agency, may be totally off the radar screen, virtually “invisible” to emergency response planners.

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