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Power outages could pose biggest threat to the Elderly

Come with me down memory lane. Its 1988 and Hurricane Gilbert brought deadly, damaging winds and rain to a beautiful island called Jamaica. I was 9 years old and have never seen a hurricane only heard about it at school.

Hurricane Gilbert slams into Jamaica, killing hundreds of people, on September 12th, 1988. With winds reaching 175 miles per hour, the now Category 5 hurricane devastated Jamaica. With a 40-mile-wide eye, the hurricane covered the entire island. The tin roofs that covered most homes were no match for the winds–about 80 percent of the island’s homes were seriously damaged and approximately 500,000 of the country’s 2 million people were left homeless. Nearly every home on the island lost electricity. Worst of all, more than 200 people lost their lives. (

If my memory serves me right, it lasted a day but for me, it felt like eternity. Actually, before the eye came it was rainy and windy. Ok very strong winds and rain. Then it stopped and looked like the sky was getting back to that sky blue you see on those posters that emphasizes our beautiful sunny island. Well about 30 minutes in, the sky began to darken, and the rain began to drizzle. I thought ok a little more then I can go down the road and see my friends. That adventure didn’t happen for a week.

My mind went to the elderly lady next door who was mean and surely but alone. I thought surely she had gotten everything together because she acts like she knows so much and don’t need anyone’s help-surely she is overly prepared and ok. Sad to say but she died. Her zinc (tin) roof was blown off, she was on oxygen she had lost power and was unable to call for help. She died alone in her home.

The elderly is at a higher risk in a hurricane. If they lose power and are reliant on oxygen or a generator their chances of staying where they are would be greater than their chances of moving. If you move an elderly person, you’re risking falls, they may become disorientated. Questions begin to swirl around, Do they have their medication? Do they have enough food and water? Where are you putting them? Where are they going?” Many are not prepared for a power outage, including the nursing homes. Most of them don’t even have a back up generator.

Here are a few tips to aide in preparation:

  • Gather medical records, including information about healthcare needs, insurance cards and emergency contact information.

  • Stock up on water. Its recommended to drink at least a gallon a day to provide hydration.

  • Have nonperishable food handy, preferably rich in B12 vitamin and low in sodium.

  • Pack a spare bag with blankets, extra clothing and comfortable shoes.

  • If your senior relies on special medical equipment such as eyeglasses, catheters, batteries or oxygen systems, stock up on spare items in case stores close.

  • Have a safe place to keep items like flashlights, battery-powered radios, and a whistle easily accessible in case of an emergency.

  • Place copies of family records and other important documents such as birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, passports, wills, deeds, and financial, insurance and immunizations records and emergency family contact numbers in a sealed, waterproof bag.

  • Have cash on hand.

  • If your loved one is in an nursing home or assisted living facility you need to be on top of them to make sure they have a backup generator, a plan for such eventuality and you know the details of, an evacuation plan.

  • Write everything down, such as contact phone numbers for friends and family, their primary care physician, pharmacist, and local disaster relief numbers. You might not be able to rely on digital means if the power is out and their phones run out of charge.

  • If your parents or other loved ones live on their own far from you ask a neighbor to check in on them at least once a day and get back to you. Make sure they are comfortable having their neighbors popping over.

  • Don’t forget their pets. Make sure the pets have extra food on hand and that they know of the availability of animal shelters should it come to an evacuation need.

Having supplies on hand such as water, batteries, food, flashlights, portable radios are wise decisions, even if Dorian doesn’t affect you, remember the hurricane season runs through November 30.

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