Disaster Preparation: What if You Must Evacuate Your Elder?

  • Imagine this: Your mother has Alzheimer's. She gets upset and worried when she must leave the house, as she doesn't recognize her surroundings and fear sets in. She's in a state of paranoia most of the time. The person on television is talking to her. The paper carrier is trying to break in. The UPS person is breaking down the door.


    Now, because of a flood, fire, hurricane or other disaster, you are told you must evacuate her. We, here on both sides of the Red River of the North which divides North Dakota and Minnesota, don't have to imagine. We have just gone through it. And we may again, very soon, as the river reaches another crest.

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    Our vulnerable people were evacuated last week to areas outside the cities where there was higher ground. Our mayor didn't even know where his mother was, though he had no fear that the home where she resides would see to it that she, and all of the others in their care, would be safely evacuated and that families would soon be notified.


    Still, it's frightening. My first thought was gratitude that my parents didn't have to go through this when we had a similar flood in 1997. They didn't evacuate the homes then. However, since 1997, when Grand Forks, North Dakota and East Grand Forks, Minnesota - "twin towns" set across the river from one another just like Fargo and Moorhead -were lost to the flood waters, everyone in the area has gotten wiser, and at the same time more cautious.


    Grand Forks-East Grand Forks received Federal aide after the flood of 1997 and now have state-of-the-art permanent flood protection. However, Fargo was a victim of its own success. We didn't go under, but it was by a hair. The result was that we were left bare to face this living the nightmare again. And we still have a second crest to face, as the snow from a blizzard that came upon us during the days the city fought the last crest, melts. We will see one more round of record flood waters in a week or two.


    Will we need to evacuate again? Will people send with their seniors off again, but with more forethought as to what they send with them? Think hard about what you would take (or send with your elders) in such a situation.


    Medications are first on the list, of course. Warm clothing, packed and ready, would be high priority. But what about something familiar? Can you make a scanned copy of a photo the person cherishes, so it can be sent along? Is there a familiar quilt or pillow? Something - anything - that will give comfort? Try to think it through. What would comfort them if they were separated from their familiar surroundings?


    Most of us have the feeling that these things always happen to "somebody else." This spring, we here in the Valley are "somebody else." Hard choices have been made. More hard choices are to come. Do, please, give some thought to disaster readiness with your elders, in case you find yourself, and them, in a similar situation.  Check with your local authorities and see what plans are in place. Much depends on where you live. We all have different chances of natural disasters of varying types, but none of us are immune.


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    I'm praying that this time, we will get the Federal funding we need to get the job done right and Fargo-Moorhead will have permanent flood protection. However, we can't ward off tornados. We could , one day, be in the eye of a disaster of another kind.


    We all need to be aware of emergency procedures for ourselves, but particularly for our vulnerable loved ones, and give personal thought to what we'd take (or send) to help our elders survive emotionally, as well as physically. We need to remember that sometimes, we are the people faced with these situations. It can happen anywhere.


    For more information about Carol go to www.mindingourelders.com or www.mindingoureldersblogs.com

Published On: April 06, 2009