4 Ways to Help Your Elderly Loved Ones Prepare for a Natural Disaster

Disaster Relief & Emergency Services

Real-world advice for keeping your family safe during hurricane season.

Natural disasters can strike when we least expect them, and for elderly parents who may have mobility or health limitations, being prepared is crucial. In this article, we’ll explore the steps you can take to ensure your elderly relatives are well-prepared to weather a hurricane or any other natural disaster. We sat down with disaster recovery expert Carlos Cubero, Director of Operations in Puerto Rico for Endeavors, who helped launch Endeavors’ disaster recovery program on the island after Hurricane Maria, and continues to oversee recovery efforts there. We asked him how family members can overcome common challenges faced by elderly individuals during and after a disaster.

First things first, Cubero says it’s critical to understand the vulnerability of elderly relatives when it comes to natural disasters. “Oftentimes, elderly clients don’t believe disasters will really happen or that they will really hit the area,” Cubero cautions. “But when it does, it can come by surprise.” 

As family members, it’s our responsibility to educate and empower them to prepare for the unexpected.

Creating An Emergency Preparedness Plan

The vast majority of disaster survivors served by Endeavors are elderly, and Cubero says there are four big things to consider when a storm is headed toward an elderly loved one’s home: 

1. Evaluate Their Living Situation: Start by assessing your elderly parents’ or relatives’ living conditions. Identify if their current residence is suitable to withstand a hurricane. If the foundation, windows, or roof are unstable, consider alternative accommodations.

2. Plan for Evacuation: Determine the safest evacuation routes and destinations for your elderly relatives. This could involve finding nearby shelters or identifying trusted friends or family members who can provide a safe haven during the disaster.

3. Recognize Cultural Barriers: It’s important to recognize and address any cultural barriers that might hinder disaster preparedness. Some elderly individuals may come from backgrounds where disaster preparation was not common, and they may need extra reassurance and education.

4. Maintain Communication: Ensure your elderly relatives have access to emergency communication. Gather and store emergency contact numbers, such as local patrols or the police, in a readily accessible location.

3 Hurricane Prep Tips for Elderly Residents

The best way to prepare for a hurricane is to assume one is coming, especially if you live in a hurricane zone. The first step to preparedness is to create an emergency preparedness plan. Then, identify a safe place for them to weather out potential storms and prepare first aid kits, essential supplies, and ample food and water.

1. Identify A Safe Place To Shelter

“You should evaluate their house and consider if there is a safer place for them to stay; we call that the bunker,” says Carlos Cubero. “Identify the safest place first. If the foundation of the home or the windows and roof are unstable for a strong storm, they should consider evacuating. Especially if they are in a flooding area.”

If staying in their home isn’t a safe option, research local shelters and community resources available during emergencies. Even if you don’t live locally and distance prevents you from providing immediate assistance to your elderly family members, you can help them identify where they will go if a storm hits. 

2. Secure Their Property

If your elderly relatives decide to stay at home during the storm, guide them to implement safety measures. This can include securing windows and doors, ensuring a supply of clean water, and having essential supplies like flashlights and first aid kits readily available.

3. Create An Emergency Contact List

Cubero also recommends creating an emergency contact list that includes local authorities, neighbors, and medical professionals, that your elderly relatives can easily access. Better yet – help them program these numbers directly into their phone. 

Community Support for Elderly Residents

In the absence of family nearby, communities must come together to support elderly individuals living alone. Cubero emphasizes the importance of community care and encourages neighbors who are able to extend a helping hand to elderly neighbors and friends. 

“Most elders are living on their own. They don’t have any relatives in the family, so the community becomes a family. So, as a community member, I ask others to make sure that everyone takes care of the elderly who are living alone,” he urges. “Please give them a space in your houses or please go and look after them.” 

Cubero says even lending a neighbor a small radio so they can hear storm updates and have some entertainment while they wait things out can make a big difference. 

“They’re human beings,” he says. “They’re human beings, and they’re alone. If families can’t look after them, the community has to become their family and their support. We saw that all around Puerto Rico: people living on their own, people who are sick, and the community has to become their family, their support, and look after them.”

After The Storm

As we’ve learned from disasters like Hurricanes Maria, Harvey, and Ida, surviving the storm is just the beginning. Your elderly loved ones will need your help navigating recovery after the winds die down and the floodwaters recede. Be prepared to help them gather documentation for insurance claims, and know that they may need to stay in a shelter, hotel, or family member’s home until their house is liveable gain. 

(Read more on how to start the hurricane recovery process.

We can’t prevent storms from hitting those we love, but by taking these proactive steps and fostering a sense of community care, you can ensure their safety and well-being during challenging times. Preparedness is the key to weathering the storm together, no matter how far apart you may be.

About Endeavors

Headquartered in San Antonio, Endeavors is a national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, natural disaster victims, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services and Emergency Services/Disaster Response.

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