Monday, August 25, 2008

Hurricanes and Gram

A few years ago, my grandmother sold her home in New Jersey and moved to Florida, shrinking the distance between her and my mother from a few-hour plane trip to a 10-minute car ride. Now 80 years old, my four-foot-eight Gram is still fiercely independent, preferring to climb on top of her kitchen cabinets rather than ask for help putting up that new framed picture that matches her curtains perfectly.

When warnings of Tropical Storm Fay were announced on the radio that Gram keeps at full blast all day long, she shuffled around her house not really sure what to do, but knowing that she needed to do something. Every other time a big storm had hit, my mother and brother secured her home and took her to my mother’s house with the rest of the family, where everyone sat in the safest room of the house until the worst of the storm passed. But this time, Gram wanted to do it all herself and stay in her house. She closed the blinds, took her potted plants inside from the back patio, and looked around the house, unsure of what truly needed to be done to protect herself and her belongings.

When Fay seemed to take a turn to the north, Gram called me in a tizzy – “Jaclyn! Are you ok? The hurricane is going to hit Atlanta!” I calmly explained that if it were to hit Atlanta, it would be a few days off and would be at a significantly weaker strength. Once I convinced her to stop worrying about me, I asked how she had prepared for the hurricane and if my mother had come to help (knowing from my mother than Gram had refused to let her). She admitted that she had been pacing, but didn’t really know what steps to take. Seeing the opportunity, I casually mentioned the things she needed to take care of – besides taking the potted plants in from outside.

Below is what the Department of Homeland Security suggests for emergency hurricane preparedness for older adults. While the tropical storm that threatened Gram’s home was not severe enough to warrant the preparations below, I know my grandmother would tell me, “It’s better to be safe than sorry!”

(More detail can be found here:

Long before a disaster strikes:
Consider how a disaster might affect your individual needs.
Plan to make it on your own, at least for a period of time. It's possible that you will not have access to a medical facility or even a drugstore.
Identify what kind of resources you use on a daily basis and what you might do if they are limited or not available.
Get an emergency supply kit that includes food, water, and other necessities.
If you must evacuate, take your pets with you, if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside.
Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.

Things to remember about medications and medical supplies:

If you take medicine or use a medical treatment on a daily basis, be sure you have what you need to make it on your own for at least a week, maybe longer.

Make a list of prescription medicines including dosage, treatment and allergy information.
Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what else you need to prepare.
If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital or if you receive regular services such as home health care, treatment or transportation, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans. Work with them to identify back-up service providers and incorporate them into your personal support network.
Consider other personal needs such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries, and oxygen.

-- Jaclyn Barbarow

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