Preparing Seniors for Natural Disasters

A 2014 study revealed less than 25 percent of older adults have an emergency plan. Of those surveyed, one-quarter said they live alone, and one-third were disabled or in poor/fair health.

University of Iowa College of Public Health

As the seasons change, it’s a good time to evaluate how your family is prepared for emergencies. If you are the caregiver for an older family member, you may need to help your loved one get ready for unexpected events. Since most people over the age of 50 report that they are not prepared for natural disasters, it may fall to families and healthcare providers to help older adults become proactive in their emergency plans. Our older population is most vulnerable at a time of crisis, so getting prepared today means a faster response time and less stress in the future.

Prepare a Senior Emergency Kit

Your loved one may need to survive alone after a disaster. The general rule of thumb is to create a 3-day supply kit and keep its contents current. You may even want to consider creating a full “stay at home” kit and a lighter “emergency travel” kit with common items your loved one needs. Be sure your loved one knows where the kit is and what supplies are in it.

Recommended items for a senior emergency kit:

  • 3-day supply of non-perishable food and water (1 gallon of water per person, per day for drinking and sanitation)
  • Battery-powered radio or television (include extra batteries)
  • Flashlight (include extra batteries)
  • First aid kit
  • Sanitation and hygiene items (moist towelettes and toilet paper)
  • Matches and candles in a waterproof container
  • Extra clothing
  • Blankets
  • Basic kitchen utensils and a manual can opener
  • Multi-purpose tool, such as a Swiss army knife
  • Cash and coins
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Medications
  • Medical devices (including hearing aids with batteries, oxygen, and wheelchair batteries)

Make an Emergency Checklist for Seniors

Along with a general emergency kit, older adults may need additional items to stay organized and safe. With your loved one’s help, create a list of items and information he or she might need in the event of a natural disaster.

A Senior Natural Disaster Checklist Could Include:

  • Names and dosage amounts for all medications
  • Doctor names/locations with phone numbers
  • Pharmacy names/locations with phone numbers
  • Special instructions for care or comfort in the case your loved one has limited communication
  • Emergency contact information for family or friends
  • Blood type
  • Duplicates of important documents including passport, driver’s license, social security card, wills, deeds, financial statements, insurance information (should be kept in a secure location)
  • Personal care assistance plan (if your loved one receives help from a home healthcare agency, find out how the agency will respond to an emergency and designate back-up plans for caregivers)

Manage Senior Stress

With some natural disasters, there is a time of warning when you can prepare, but there may also be time to worry. As a possible emergency situation arises, older people may feel stressed and isolated. Having an emergency plan and a kit can help them feel prepared. In addition, some strategies may help lower stress:

  • Maintain typical routines, meal patterns, and normal sleep as much as possible.
  • Minimize talk about the disaster and avoid 24-hour news reports on the crisis.
  • Seek out positive activities to pass the time.

Older adults may also want to volunteer or provide assistance to others. This is a great way to showcase their strengths and resilience. Plus, finding ways for them to contribute to the efforts may ease some of the worry and helpless feelings.

As families and caregivers, we want to work together to help our loved ones feel empowered and safe, no matter what emergencies arise. At Comfort Keepers®, we understand that many seniors want to stay in their own homes and feel protected there. By starting preparations today, your loved ones can feel more peace of mind and reassurance that if a crisis happens, they are not alone. Our compassionate, professional team of caregivers is trained to create and implement emergency plans and back-up solutions if unexpected events strike. Contact our local office to find out more about how we help seniors stay safe and maintain a comfortable home life.


  • Abrahms, Sally. “A Caregiver’s Natural Disaster Prep List.” Web. 10 May 2012.
  • Soglin, Becky. “UI study: Older adults in U.S. not prepared for natural disasters.” Iowa Now. Web. 25 March 2014.
  • Sollitto, Marlo. “12 Tips to Prepare the Elderly for Disasters.” Web. 20 June 2015.
  • “Preparing Makes Sense for Older Americans. Get Ready Now.” Web. 1 July 2015.
  • Tralle, Minnell L. “Before a Natural Disaster: Planning and Preparing Tips for Older Adults.” University of Minnesota Extension. Web. May 2015.

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