Orlando Senior Help Desk offers hurricane season advice
June 8, 2018
An approaching hurricane fills many people with dread and uncertainty. And as Central Florida was reminded only last September with Hurricane Irma, any year can bring us one (or more) of these extreme weather events.
Seniors may feel especially vulnerable and alone before, during, and immediately after a weather emergency-and many with good reason. Medical, mobility, and many other issues that may affect seniors can reach crisis proportions when normal routines and services are interrupted or unavailable. As the hurricane season officially gets underway, the Orlando Senior Help Desk is an excellent resource for questions and concerns regarding senior safety during weather emergencies.
Nancy Ludin, senior resource specialist for Orlando Senior Help Desk and executive director of the Jewish Pavilion, said that seniors who live in a facility that's geared for them-whether an independent living community, assisted living or a skilled nursing facility-are in the best possible place in the event of a hurricane.
"The senior communities are all very well prepared for hurricanes," Ludin said. "They all have generators and they all provide meals during the entire experience. They have a record of all medications and of special requirements for health care items that run on electricity, and they are prepared to make sure that those will be available in an emergency."
Although local family members may be concerned about their elder relatives and want to bring them to their home to ride out the storm, especially if they are expressing anxiety as the storm approaches, Ludin advises to resist the impulse. "Basically, if you have an older adult in one of those communities, with a hurricane coming, you can relax. They will be incredibly well cared for. And they'll be much safer there than they might be when riding out the storm in your single family home."
To help curb anxious feelings, it's a good idea to remind elder relatives of the added safety features in place at their facility. Such residences have to meet strict requirements for building codes and maintenance, generators, emergency planning, and laying in supplies. On-site staff will move in to stay during the storm and its aftermath, ensuring continued routines, activities, services and meals.
If your parents or other relatives are still anxious, Ludin advises joining them at their facility to ride out the storm rather than bringing them home with you. In fact, Ludin did just that last September when Hurricane Irma struck Central Florida, staying with her mom at her apartment in Oakmonte Village's independent living building in Lake Mary.
"It was an incredible experience," she said. "First of all, there was absolutely nothing to worry about: there was air conditioning, the generators worked, there was no flooding-any of the things that you would worry about at home. They had lots of food, and they had the meals prepared ahead of time. They had entertainment, so you had something to do as you waited out the storm."
The Oakmonte staff slept over, "so when we got up in the morning, breakfast was served," recalled Ludin. "It was like living in the lap of luxury! And the seniors were not nervous, given the circumstances."
Since "hunkering down" for a hurricane enforces plenty of down time, Ludin said, "it's a great opportunity to connect with your loved one and be in a safe place yourself. And all facilities will not only welcome you, but not even charge you for a meal or anything like that."
For seniors who live on their own, Ludin recommends that they do not stay at home when the area they live in is threatened. If they cannot get to the home of a family member, she said, they should go to a hotel, which will be well prepared with food and generators in case of emergency. "Their medication should be brought with them, and they should have a list of their doctors and medicines with them, as well as emergency contacts. They should prepare clothes, health needs, and supplies for more than one day."
Most importantly, they should leave home well before the approaching storm becomes a serious safety threat. "They should be well prepared," Ludin said. "But they shouldn't be alone."
The Orlando Senior Help Desk is a free resource for Central Florida seniors and their families, providing guidance to help them make informed choices. It is a program of The Jewish Pavilion serving people of all faiths, and it is sponsored through generous partners and donors. To learn more or ask a question, call 407-678-9363. Additional information on issues seniors face can be found at OrlandoSeniorHelpDesk.org.