By the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources Legal Services Team
Whether it’s a household accident, a medical issue, or a weather-related power outage, emergency support and preparedness can be a major challenge for older adults living alone.
Fortunately, some advance preparation can be accomplished relatively easily. For example, the Department of Homeland Security provides a list of basic emergency supplies online at Ready.gov.
The Centers for Disease Control also recommend setting aside at least a three-day supply of medical items, such as prescription drugs, and keeping copies of important documents readily available in a waterproof plastic bag. That might include medical information - such as insurance cards, a list of medications, and information about any known allergies – but could also include contact information for doctors, copies of a photo ID, and copies of advance directives and powers of attorney. Those important documents should be clearly labeled and located in a place where they would be easy to reach and clearly visible to a person unfamiliar with your home – such as a kitchen countertop or a magnetic hanger on a refrigerator door. They could also be kept as part of a to-go bag including other items like toiletries and personal hygiene supplies in case of an unexpected need to go to the hospital or evacuate your home.
There are some needs, however, that can’t be addressed simply by stocking up on supplies. Who will take care of feeding pets, checking mail, paying bills, and shoveling or mowing during an extended absence? All those needs rely on support from other people, and establishing a network of support often requires a measure of active effort. Ideally, a primary support person would be someone familiar with your personal preferences and capable of addressing your individual needs, but sometimes, support needs to come from a network of resources. Building that network requires participating in social activities, such as making contacts through church, volunteer activities, or hobby groups. It can even be as simple as taking some time to get to know your neighbors.
For seniors with limited mobility, though, it may not be possible to engage in social activities outside the home. For those people, it may be necessary to establish relationships with others who regularly visit the home, such as meal delivery services, housekeeping assistance, or even mail carriers. Although it’s always wise to be cautious, making the effort to develop trusted relationships can prove critically important in times of need.
Photo source: ready.gov