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Remember to check on older adults during stormy weather

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — While preparing your home or business for the impending damage from Hurricane Florence, it can be easy to forget some of the most vulnerable in the community — older adults, especially those with chronic illnesses, impairments or functional limitations.

Helping older relatives and neighbors in the community starts with making a simple inquiry, says Nan Buehrer, director of Rufty-Holmes Senior Center.

Buehrer said older residents often may say they are OK, but she encourages people to go beyond that and see if they have flashlights and extra batteries or if they have food to see them through a power outage.

“Check on them periodically,” she suggested.

She said older neighbors or relatives may have items tucked away in a hard-to-reach place and may need help getting to their supplies.

“They are just like all the rest of us. They need the basics like flashlights and need their cellphones charged,” she said.

Rufty-Holmes sent information to its older population at its nutrition sites about meal preparation in a power failure and what foods are not safe to eat. The seniors also were given boxes of food days ago to assist them.

“It’s nice to take some food over to an older adult neighbor,” she said.

The senior center has a regular program called “Are You OK?” Those who enroll receive a daily call from someone on the emergency management team. Although it’s too late to sign up for that program, Buehrer said this is something a neighbor could do.

“Give them a call every day to make sure they are fine,” she said.

She recommended the Rowan County United Way 211 information number. Local residents can find out about local resources through that number. The Rowan County Emergency Services Operations Center has  a non-emergency number of 704-216-8900.

Here are five tips to help older people before, during and after a disaster:

Create a communications plan. Make a list of emergency contact information to keep in touch with them before, during and after the disaster. Help them program emergency contact information into a cellphone. In addition, get connected to local information via text message alerts or social media.

Make a medical plan. Many older residents rely on assistive devices — oxygen machines, wheelchairs or hearing aids. Ensure these devices are charged as well as have back-up batteries. Contact utility companies to let them know the person has a medical device that requires electricity so their name can be placed on a priority list for service restoration.

Create an emergency kit. A kit should contain first-aid supplies, nonperishable food, water, clothing, copies of important documents, prescription medications, batteries, flashlights, pet food and other pertinent items.

Secure the home. If evacuation or a stay in a shelter is necessary, remember to lock the home and shut off the power. Leave a note outside to let first responders know the home has been evacuated.

Ask for help. If an older family member doesn’t live nearby, ask a close friend or neighbor to assist them.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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