Thursday, September 18, 2014

Medical Concerns During a Disaster

It would be nice to be in optimal physical condition when a disaster strikes but as the population continues to get older, fatter, and sicker, the reality, for many people, is that they will have to deal with any disaster that arises in less than stellar condition.  Not only will this impact their ability to respond to said disaster but all of the things that go along with being old, fat, and sick will also come into play after a disaster.  Here are some things to consider, and prepare for now, if you fall into any of these categories or care for someone who does:

  • If someone has any sort of in-home life support equipment (ventilator, CPAP, etc), what would happen if the power is out for an extended period of time?  
  • If someone relies on regular oxygen delivery, what would happen if these deliveries couldn't be made?
  • If someone needs regular prescription medication, what would happen if they couldn't get this medication for weeks or longer?
  • If someone relies on glasses or contacts to see, hearing aids to hear, or dentures to eat, what would happen if these items were lost or destroyed?
  • If someone is wheelchair-bound, how would they be able to escape from a damaged building after an earthquake or other disaster that impeded their ability to be mobile?
  • If someone uses adult diapers or liquid nutrition such as Ensure, what would happen if they couldn't purchase these items for an extended period of time?
  • If someone were quite obese, how would they be able to evacuate a disaster area or destroyed home if the roads were closed?
  • If an elderly or ill person relies on home healthcare, what would they do if their care provider couldn't get to their home for an extended period of time? get the idea.

In the event of a major disaster, like a Hurricane Katrina which wipes out all infrastructure/medical facilities/pharmacies/stores or an earthquake which levels an entire city, the above situations will happen to a percentage of the population,  It is up to each person who sees themselves or their loved ones in these scenarios to plan now for such an eventuality.

Besides discussing these concerns with your healthcare provider who may have some ideas to help, consider a range of alternatives.  In the case of the examples above:
  • Have a generator for emergency electricity and have an early evacuation plan in place.
  • Stockpile additional oxygen or have a portable oxygen concentrator.
  • Stockpile as much prescription medication possible (doctors will often provide a prescription for a 90 day supply if asked).
  • Keep old glasses, hearing aids, and/or dentures for emergency use when you get new items.
  • Someone who is wheelchair-bound may want to consider early evacuation if possible as well as have neighbors who could check on them after a disaster and offer assistance if needed.
  • For necessary supplies, buying a bit extra each week with the regular shopping can equal a significant stockpile eventually.
  • The simple answer for those who are obese is to lose weight although that isn't always so simple.  Even walking every day starting with twenty feet at a time can make a difference when disaster strikes.
  • For those who rely on home healthcare, this concern should be brought up with the healthcare agency as many have disaster plans in place.  Also, if possible, family members should learn the basic skills to care for the person if possible.

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