Real Possibilities – Caregivers, Kupuna Must Plan Ahead to Survive a Disaster

Real Possibilities – Caregivers, Kupuna Must Plan Ahead to Survive a Disaster

Photo of Barbara Kim Stanton

Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

As a caregiver, Ken Takeya knows that if a hurricane, tsunami or some other disaster strikes Hawai‘i, he needs to be by his wife’s side, rather than running around or standing in long lines to buy water, food and gas.

Takeya has a detailed disaster plan and more than two weeks of food, medicine, water and other supplies to survive in the chaotic aftermath of a disaster on O‘ahu.

“You gotta be organized. It’s not hard. Once you do it (have a plan and supplies), you just keep it up,” he said.

Takeya is prepared . . . but are you?

People who are caregivers and kupuna (elders) living on their own need to be ready for a disaster before it strikes.

But you can’t do it on your own.

Caregivers and kupuna need a support network of family, neighbors and friends.

Caregivers of people with dementia will need more than one person to watch over a loved one to help keep them calm and to make sure they don’t wander away.

New this year is the recommendation that you keep a 14-day supply of food, water and medicine for each person in a home. The concern is that harbors could become unusable in a disaster and O‘ahu could run out of food before the ports can be reopened.

Your disaster kit should also contain vital records such as IDs, insurance, important legal and medical records, important phone numbers, a flashlight with batteries, extra eyeglasses, hearing aids, extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, other assistive devices, cash and toilet paper.

If you need to evacuate your home, don’t assume that the nearest school will open as an emergency shelter. Some facilities, especially older sites, are being re-evaluated to see if they would safely survive a disaster.

Check your home to see if it is engineered to survive a severe storm and to see if it is outside tsunami and flood zones. If you live in a concrete building on an upper floor, you may be able to shelter in place.

If not, see if a relative or friend’s home in a safe area can be used as a back-up shelter and line up more than one back-up shelter.

If your loved one is in a nursing home or care home, check its disaster plan to see if it is adequate and, if not, urge them to update it or find another facility that has a good disaster plan.

Communication is important in a disaster. Know how to text message and use social media. Text messages and data can sometimes go through when voice lines are out.

For more tips and information about what should be included in a disaster kit, go online to ready.gov.

If you are in a church or community group and want to learn how to help your members and neighbors in a disaster, check out AARP’s Create the Good website at http://createthegood.org/toolkit/operation-emergency-prepare or call the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at the University of Hawai‘i at 956-0600.

Visit AARP Hawaii here

Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawaii since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.

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