Warning- close your family floodgates as New Orleans closed theirs after Hurricane Issac and Katrina.
September’s catastrophic disaster with Hurricanes Irma and Harvey hitting near the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina should conjure up a midlife sibling nightmare. It brings back the now recurring goblins of Katrina -the most gruesome weather cataclysm where 39 elderly residents died, trapped or abandoned in retirement centers and 1400 elder overall died in Katrina’s watery wrath.We just plunged into the horror again with Irma where, so far 8 elderly have died, with criminal charges pending and new regulations by the governor, after he was accused of not responding to calls from the facility. On Irma’s heels with now have Maria and Jose, which should terrify adult children enough to take emergency action to protect their parents.
This recent confluence of hurricane deaths and hurricanes looming right now, should be a deafening shout to you and your midlife siblings that you need to convene a midlife sibling disaster plan family meeting to protect any aging family members-, no matter where your elderly parents live or what level of care. You need that disaster plan because older people are more likely to die in catastrophes than any other population. As I pointed out in my last blog, just because they are in a facility – they are not safe– in fact, Katrina and Irma tell us perhaps they are more in peril.
So before Maria or another hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood, or any disaster hits, you need to have a midlife sibling family meeting to come up with a disaster plan for aging family members. I posted this a week ago but after Irma ‘s carnage, I have revised my list
What would be the agenda of that midlife sibling disaster family meeting?
If your loved ones are in a FACILITY- do not trust the facility to handle the situation. Look at what just happened in Irma.
1)Get a copy of the facilities disaster and evacuation plan.Compare it to state regulations. If it does not include calling the family before the disaster, consider moving your loved one or make sure that is changed.
2)Appoint a sibling to be in charge of reading the disaster evacuation plan and be the contact person.
3)Call your state facility licensing body and find out the state regulations to see if they match the facilities- CCRC, Assisted Living or Nursing Home
4) Have a telephonic family meeting before the disaster if possible
5) make sure the state requires backup generators for heat and air conditioning- a flaw in Florida’s regulations in Irma
If the loved one is LIVING AT HOME alone or with an adult child.
1) Create a disaster plan for the older person. This would map out what each sibling and family member needs to do
2) Create a disaster team. This would include every adult siblings all over the country, family nearby, caregivers and neighbors.
4) Include someone on the team who can carry heavy objects like wheelchairs.
5) Name a substitute caregiver if the regular one can’t get there.
6) Make an evacuation plan for your aging family member’s house. Where is the nearest Red Cross shelter
8)Find out how many people do you need to make the move to safety or a shelter?
9) Put all of the above in writing.
10) Share a copy your disaster plan with everyone. E-mail copies to everyone on the family disaster team including all adult siblings, neighbors and friends.
11) Get everyone’s agreement especially midlife siblings and the older person. Be a unified disaster team.
12 ) Call a geriatric care manager to manage the plan or help you create it with your elderly parents, if you live long distance. They can do the heavy lifting, can help moderate a family meeting- can research state laws, be there in a disaster immediately, create and implement a disaster plan for your parent, that you approve and can be part of.
Professionals check out the chapter “ Preparing for Emergencies” in my Handbook of Geriatric Care Management fourth edition,
Professionals Check out my book Care Managers Working With the Aging Family, Jones and Bartlett, with its chapter on Family Meetings and the Aging Family by Rita Ghatak, director of Stanford’s Aging Program.