I know it’s difficult to buy a gift for older persons in your life.  Here’s one you may not have considered but I think is well worth purchasing – an emergency preparation kit.

Natural disasters seem to be increasing in number.  They also seem to be taking place much closer to home.  They can strike anywhere in Canada but the two opposite coasts seem to have the most extreme predictions.  ‘The Big One’ (earthquake) is predicted for British Columbia http://www.theprovince.com/news/risk+zone+megathrust+earthquake/8514463/story.html .  Newfoundland has its own extreme weather predictions http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/geekquinox/more-extreme-weather-store-warmer-newfoundland-says-study-165020345.html .  Regardless of where you live there is the potential risk of a natural disaster but also other disasters such as major power outages.  This knowledge can add to your concerns about the safety of older relatives and their readiness in an emergency.

Living Arrangements Don’t Make a Difference

Even if your aging relative lives with you, they need to know what to do in an emergency.  You may not be home when an emergency arises.  For those of us who have elderly relatives living at a distance it is more difficult to prepare for emergencies.  At least if you share the same home you can also share the same emergency kit which helps to ensure its availability.  Regardless of living arrangements, preparations still need to be done.

The Resistance – “Don’t Worry About Me!”

Many elderly relatives will resist emergency preparations.  There are all sorts of reasons for this.  They have lived through many emergencies in their lives so the next one won’t be any different.  Preparations take time and knowledge.  Take this as an opportunity to offer emergency preparations as a gift.  The purchase of emergency kits can help an older person prepare.  You’re taking away the hassle of being prepared.  However, don’t just buy a kit.  Make sure you explain each item in the kit so they understand what they own and how to use it.  This also will help with buy-in to keep the kit ready rather than packing it away out of reach in the home.

Things to Consider:

  1. If they live in a rental apartment (not a seniors residence) make sure that the apartment manager understands their limitations and has them on a priority list for assistance.
  2. If they live in a seniors residence (not a nursing home), ask the resident management about their preparations.  Check that they have a priority list of needs based on the type of disaster and any physical or cognitive limitations of residents.  Make sure they have a contact list so you are notified on status as soon as possible.  Check that they have food and water supplies ready.
  3. If they live in the community make sure that trusted neighbours have your contact information.  Also ensure that neighbours understand limitations that your relative might have that could reduce their ability to care for themselves.  Get the neighbours’ contact information too so you can notify them if your area is involved in an emergency.  Your older relative will be worried about your safety too.
  4. Don’t let the emergency kit become too heavy to manage.  A backpack approach is best.  A backpack with wheels may provide additional ways to move the kit.
  5. Make sure the kit doesn’t need to be lifted from a high shelf or some other hard to reach place.
  6. Ensure that lists of medications, contact information and any medical conditions are in the kit.

The Government of Canada’s website http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/index-eng.aspx offers a detailed list of key tips and supplies.  The site offers a section on preparedness for those with special needs such as sight or mobility challenges.  “To ensure the most vulnerable Canadians receive the right help quickly in times of emergency” the Canadian Red Cross is working on a project to use health records from interRAI  http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130613-908256.html .