Help senior citizens in your family or neighborhood with advance planning

Published 2:00 pm Saturday, May 18, 2013

According to the United States Census Bureau, 15.1 percent of the population in Pearl River County is 65 years old or older.

This age group is often the most affected group during, and after, natural disasters.

With hurricane season approaching, The Picayune Item, along with Senior Center Executive Director Darlene Adams, has put together the following tips to ensure proper care for senior citizens when natural disaster preparedness is key:

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— Know where seniors live in your area

— Identify at-risk, older and disabled citizens in your community who may not be able to answer a phone call from the authorities or a knock at the door.

— Keep a list of local emergency responders.

— Evacuate these communities early. Seniors can take a significant amount of time to evacuate due to mobility issues, medical equipment needed, and resistance to change.

— Encourage your medical facilities to adopt electronic records. Electronic medical records can aid in seniors receiving seamless treatment.

— Many seniors have existing medical conditions that will still require monitoring and treatment during and after evacuation.

— Medical teams are often able to offer crisis counseling but are unable to quickly diagnose, and therefore assist, those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

For individuals caring for their own aging loved ones during a disaster, Adams recommends taking the following measures to prepare:

— Prepare an emergency contact list with relatives, doctors, pharmacies, insurance companies, banks, help lines, the local Red Cross and any others needed.

— Ask their doctor to prescribe regular medications to be kept on hand for emergency situations.

“We had personal experience with this during Katrina with my mother,” said Adams. “We found that it was not so easy to take our hometown prescription which we filled at a family pharmacy to a place like Houston and get it refilled. It was a nightmare.”

City Rexall pharmacist Laura Betsayad, R.Ph., says, “It depends on what the condition is and then the state law. It is up to Board of Pharmacy and state laws, but as long as our generator is working and it is not a narcotic or prescription for cetain conditions — we can transfer prescriptions. Sometimes, in a state of emergency, the board will allow you to fill it under those circumstances.”

— If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may also consider requesting medications from their physician to address anxiety or sleeplessness, common issues brought on by the stress of disaster and evacuation.

— Prepare a disaster kit for your loved one with their medications, medical records, clothing, toiletries and even familiar photos, a favorite blanket, etc.

— Seniors do not adapt well to change. Make sure their surroundings are as familiar as possible. This will help them adjust to their temporary living situation in the event of an evacuation.

 — If they suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, provide them with a Safe Return or identification bracelet that has an emergency contact on it.

— Identify your community’s available resources in emergencies such as hospitals, shelters, etc.

— Look into your nearest special need’s shelter that can assist citizens with medical needs during an emergency. You usually need to pre-register and meet criteria for these shelters.

Preparedness for special needs in times of disaster is vital and could save the life of a loved one or a neighbor.