Showing posts with label how to prepare for emergencies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how to prepare for emergencies. Show all posts

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine: Seniors Should Prepare for Covid-19

The father of one of the students at our grandson's school has been hospitalized with a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. As a result, our daughter and her family have been ordered into self-quarantine at their home in New York State.  Fortunately, our daughter informed us that they have plenty of food, her husband's employer agreed to let him work from home, and they will be fine until the quarantine period is over. In fact, they all have a positive attitude about this unexpected period of family time they will have together.

However, it occurred to me that everyone should know how to be prepared for a period of self-quarantine in case they are exposed to any contagious disease.  In particular, seniors should be ready to survive at home alone for at least two weeks, whether it is because of a virus in their community, or as a result of some other type of disruptive disaster.

Facts About the Coronavirus Covid-19

First, everyone should be aware of what we currently know about the novel coronavirus called Covid-19 as of early March, 2020.

The older and sicker you already are, the more likely you are to become seriously ill or die from Covid-19.  Children are rarely seriously affected, although they can be carriers of the virus.  Some babies have been diagnosed with the virus shortly after birth, which is a concern for expectant mothers.

The overall risk of dying from this disease is estimated by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control to be about 2.3 percent.  The World Health Organization actually believes the rate may be 3.4 percent. This makes it appear to be 23 to 34 times more lethal than regular influenza, which has a death rate of 0.1 percent. However, the death rate for Covid-19 should decrease as the number of people are tested and many are discovered to only have a mild case. The reason more people currently die from the flu is because it has been around much longer and millions of people get it every year.  Eventually, the Covid-19 may become more common, too.  Hopefully, before that happens, we will have a vaccine and more effective treatments than we have now, and these interventions will lower the death rate.

Until then, senior citizens should know that people in their 70s have an estimated 8% death rate, when they get the Covid-19; people in their 80s have a 15% death rate.  Older patients are much more vulnerable than younger adults.

The estimated death rates for people with certain underlying disease are:

Heart disease - 10.5%
Diabetes - 7.3%
Chronic Respiratory Disease - 6.3%
High blood pressure - 6%
Cancer - 5.6%

As mentioned above, these numbers should decrease once we are able to test people sooner and quickly get them treatment.

The good news is that the vast majority of people survive this illness, even if they are elderly and have an underlying condition. However, if you do have one of these conditions, it is wise to be extra careful by practicing good hand washing hygiene and practicing social distancing, which is explained in greater detail below.

Once you feel you have done everything you can, then relax and continue to enjoy your life.  Stress can lower your immunity, so do not let yourself become too anxious.

How to Minimize Your Exposure to Covid-19

The first thing you want to do is minimize your exposure to this coronavirus.  You have almost certainly seen the news reports about thoroughly washing your hands, which is always a good idea.  Some people, especially those with sensitive skin, have also found it helpful to wear gloves when they are in public.  You can either use disposable gloves, (Ad) or fabric gloves which can be removed and laundered when you return home.  You may want to purchase several pairs.  Perhaps we can make it stylish again to wear attractive gloves whenever we are out in public!  Recently, the Queen of England has been spotted wearing gloves when she is in public.  We may all want to follow her lead.

Experts also recommend that we practice a certain amount of reasonable social separation.  This means avoid shaking hands, hugging others, using common cups in religious services, or spending time near people with obvious symptoms of a cold or the flu, such as coughing or sneezing. We may also want to avoid crowded spaces in which you are in close proximity to large groups of people. Older adults may want to avoid friends for a couple of weeks after they have been on a cruise or when they have recently returned from an overseas trip. 

You do not need to completely isolate yourself from other people. Just practice reasonable self-defense.  Hopefully, people who are sick will be thoughtful and stay home when they are not well.

How to Prepare for Self-Quarantine

Despite your best efforts, the time may come when you discover you have been in the vicinity of someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus or another highly infectious disease.  If this happens to you, you need to be prepared to self-quarantine until you have been cleared by the experts.  What do you need to have in your home in order to be prepared for a successful self-quarantine?

Keep at least a two to three week supply of the following items on hand at all times:

Canned, frozen and dry food, such as pasta, soup and frozen meals
Pet food, if you have a pet
Prescription medications and nutritional supplements
Toilet paper, tissues and paper towels
Soap, shampoo and personal hygiene products
Cleaning supplies, such as Clorox wipes, Lysol, laundry soap, etc. (Ad)
Spare batteries for any medical devices or entertainment items you have.

You do not need to hoard these things.  Just have a two to three week supply of them on hand.

You may also want to keep a supply of a few other things:

Over-the-counter cough medicines, nasal sprays, and Advil (ibuprofen) (Ad) are good to have in your medicine cabinet, just in case you need them.  Mild cases of the coronavirus can be treated at home with cold medicines, rest, and plenty of fluids. These medications only treat the symptoms; they do not cure the disease. The good news is that 80% of all cases of Covid-19 appear to be mild and people recover in a few weeks.  However, if you have a dry cough and a temperature of over 104 F, or you start to have breathing problems, call your doctor and make arrangements to go to the emergency room.  This could mean you have developed a severe form of the disease. Hospitals want you to call in advance so you can be isolated when you arrive.

You may also want to keep an assortment of items around the house to keep you busy while you are under quarantine, such as books or supplies for your favorite hobbies.

Remember that being self-quarantined does not mean you cannot enjoy gardening in your yard and getting some fresh air.  Depending on what authorities have told you, you might even take a walk around the block, as long as you stay six feet or more away from other people. If you do go outside, this is when it would be thoughtful to wear a face mask, so you do not cough and expose someone else.

You can also stay in touch with friends and family through emails, phone calls, Facetime, and text.  In fact, it is advisable to let your loved ones know how you are feeling and whether or not you are starting to get sick.  It will reassure them if you are well, and allow them to seek help for you if you need it.  It will also help keep you sane during this period of forced isolation! Being alone for too long can be very stressful for many people, so you need to stay connected.  You may even arrange to contact someone once a day to confirm you are still OK.  If they do not hear from you, give them permission to ask the police to do a welfare check on you. 

What If You Run Low on Supplies?

Fortunately, we now live in an internet connected world.  If you run short on supplies, you can order virtually anything you need online.  You can order a pizza delivered to your home, or have groceries, medications, cleaning supplies, and almost anything else shipped to you by Amazon, Walmart, or a local store.  Most pharmacies will mail your medications to you.  Since you pay online, you can even have them leave everything outside your door, especially if you feel sick and want to avoid speaking with the delivery person.  You can tape a note with instructions to your front door or, if you have the Ring doorbell, (Ad) you can use it to chat with them.

What is important to know is that you do not have to panic if you are unexpectedly quarantined, even if you were not prepared or you find yourself short on supplies.  You can get virtually anything you need delivered to you within a day or two.

Avoid Being Scammed

Finally, you should not let yourself be scammed by people who want to cheat you by selling over-priced "Covid-19 Kits" and other products you do not need. There are reports that some on-line sellers are asking over $100 for a bottle of hand sanitizer or $20 for a face mask.  You do not need either of these things during a home quarantine, and you certainly should not pay an unreasonable price for them.  Even if you do need something, it is smart to look for the best possible price.  Do not panic.  Do not let yourself be cheated.  All you really need are basic supplies, and you should not have to pay extra in order to get them.  In most places, price gouging is against the law.

To learn more about common medical problems as we age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Whether you are age 30, 60, or 90, there will be  times during your life when you will be affected by some type of emergency.  It could be an injury, a health setback, an unexpected expense or a natural disaster.  While it is impossible to be prepared for every eventuality, it is important for everyone to plan for the most likely emergencies which could affect us.  Below are a few common types of events which might happen to a retiree, and how to protect yourself.

In addition to the list below, you may want to add to this list emergencies which could be common in your specific family or community ... such as early coronary events in your family, or neighborhood flooding during times of heavy rain.

Financial Disasters

According to Investopedia, in 2016 people in their 60s had a median savings account of about $172,000.  This means that half of all retirees had less than that ... many of them much less.  If you are living off Social Security, plus additional income based on dividends or interest on your savings, you do not want to spend the principal in order to purchase a new car, buy a hot water heater, replace a roof, or pay the deductible for surgery or other medical treatments.  The obvious solution is for everyone to save as much as possible prior to retirement and designate a portion of that savings as an emergency fund which you do not depend on to cover your essential living expenses.

In addition, you may want to discuss with your financial planner or investment advisor whether your money is invested conservatively enough to be protected, in the event of a drop in the stock market or other major financial reversal.


According to the National Council on Aging, about one in four people over the age of 65 falls each year.  Falls are the most common cause of fatal injuries and are a common cause of hospital admissions.  Keeping your body strong and getting regular exercise is the first line of defense in preventing falls.  Everyone should make sure their homes are well-lit and contain no loose rugs or other items which could cause you to trip.

You may also want to purchase a medical alert device, especially if you live alone.  You wear them like a pendant or bracelet and use them to quickly contact an agent who can call an ambulance, neighbor or relative for you, in the event of a fall.

You should also talk to your doctor if your blood pressure medicine or other medications make you feel light-headed or dizzy.  They may be able to change your prescription.

House Fires

According to FEMA, older Americans are much more likely to die in a house fire than younger adults. If you have trouble hearing, take sleeping medications, or have difficulty getting out of bed by yourself, you have an especially elevated risk of dying in a house fire.  Make sure your home is equipped with plenty of very loud smoke and fire detectors, as well as a carbon monoxide detector.  Change the batteries frequently, at least every six months.

Install nightlights in your home and plug them into outlets near the floor, so they can guide you to an exit. The air is clearer near the floor, so crawl out if you have trouble finding your way.  Be sure some of your nightlights have a battery backup, in case the electricity goes out.  Sleep with your bedroom door closed so you do not succumb to smoke inhalation if a fire starts in another room.  Check to see if you can get outside to safety from a bedroom window if the fire is burning between you and an outside door.

Natural Disasters

If you live independently, you need to be prepared to handle any natural disaster which could affect you.  Depending on where you live, that could include hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes or wildfires.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says on their website that "being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters."

Because you may move a little slower as you age, it would be wise to prepare a "get away" bag that contains some emergency cash, a change of clothes, a two-week supply of your medications, copies of your insurance documents, a list of important phone numbers and any other important items you will want to have ready if you ever have to hop in the car and leave quickly. Put paperwork and medications in waterproof plastic bags. If you have a back-up pair of glasses or an extra hearing aid, put those items in your bag, too. You may also want to include a flashlight, battery operated radio, small first-aid kit, photo id, and copies of items such as your birth certificate, Social Security card, Medicare card, etc.

Make sure the bag is not too heavy for you to lift by yourself.  If it is, get someone to help you put it in your car, where you can easily reach it and transport it to an emergency shelter, if you are evacuated.

Homeland Security has an online booklet called 30 Tips for Emergency Preparedness.  Print it out, read it, and keep a copy in your bag.  In a true emergency, you may have trouble remembering what you should do.

Make sure your bag is large enough for you to toss in any last minute items you may want to grab as you run out the door ... a tablet computer, phone charger, new medication, wallet, pet food, or similar items you may want to add, if you have time.  Some people have two bags ... one conveniently stored in their home and one they keep in their auto at all times.

In the event the disaster cuts you off from roads and outside help for a few days (for example, if the roads are flooded), you may also want to keep emergency supplies of food and water in your home.  A battery operated cell phone charger could also help you stay in touch with the outside world.  If you have a pet, make sure you have provisions for them, as well.

More Emergency Considerations

Depending on your health condition or other problems, you may also have to prepare for emergencies which are unique to you and your family.  We all have a tendency to tell ourselves that "someday" we will put together emergency supplies, save more money, or think about what to do in the event of a disaster.  Do not wait.  Do it now and you can relax knowing that, while you cannot possibly prepare for every eventuality, you will have done everything you can to protect yourself, your spouse, other family members, and your pets in an emergency.

If you are interested in learning more about how to prepare for common problems as you age, financial planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Be Prepared for Emergencies - It Could Save Your Life

No matter how old or how young you are, are you prepared for an emergency?  In particular, are you prepared for the most likely type of emergency that could happen where you live?  For example, if you live in coastal areas in the southern and eastern states, are you prepared for a hurricane?  If you live in California, are you prepared for an earthquake?  If you live in a heavily forested area, are your prepared for a forest fire?  And, if you live near a river or other waterway, are you prepared for flooding?  If not, you need to take action now.  Your life, and the lives of your loved ones, could depend on it.

Our retirement community has regular emergency drills.  In addition, we also have representatives throughout the community who are willing to go door to door to check on people in the event of an emergency.  These volunteers attend periodic trainings so they know how best to help their neighbors, especially those who are weak or injured.

However, it is also a responsibility for all of us to be as prepared as possible if we should become the victims of a hurricane, flood, tornado, blizzard, earthquake or other disaster. In a widespread emergency, it may take a few days before emergency personnel can find and help everyone who is is injured or displaced.  Our local authorities recommend that everyone be prepared to take care of themselves, if possible, for up to three days.  If you live in an area where you could lose your electricity and be snowed in for a week or more, you may need to make even more extensive preparations. While this may not be necessary for everyone, better safe than sorry.

Covering Your Basic Needs

Experts agree that we should make sure we are prepared to take care of our of certain basic needs, including:  food, shelter, water, light, personal hygiene, medicine, communications, and money. 

How do you prepare?   Take a chest or plastic storage bin and put in some essential supplies such as canned food and a can opener, a radio and flashlight with extra batteries, soap, eating utensils, a solar phone charger, a small amount of cash, a first aid kit, blankets, a change of clothing for each family member, and small quantities of important medications (which you should rotate out every few months).  Inside or next to your storage bin you should also put at least a five gallon container of water or more, depending on the size of your family.  If you have pets, you will also want to include zip lock bags containing their food, as well as enough water to satisfy their needs for a few days.

Next, you need to decide where to keep your storage bin.  Here in Southern California, where the biggest danger is earthquakes, I know of several people who keep their emergency kit in a protected area of their backyard.  They do this in case their home should be so badly damaged that they would be unable to go back inside to retrieve the items they would need.  We keep most of our supplies just inside the door to our garage ... although I must confess that I am not good about keeping everything up-to-date and gathered in one place.  One of my reasons for writing this post is to encourage me to practice what I preach!

I have already purchased a combination flashlight and phone charger for my husband and each of our children for Christmas this year.  I thought it would be a thoughtful gift and could be really helpful to at least one of them in the coming years.

Items You May Wish To Purchase

When you are putting your emergency kit together, there are certain items you may wish to purchase.  In addition to food, clothing, blankets, 5 to 10 gallons of water and your medications, here are some additional items you may need.  If you don't have them on hand, purchase them in advance:

A well-stocked First Aid kit that includes bandages, antibiotic cream and alcohol wipes
A back-up phone charger -- either solar, battery powered or wind-up
A battery powered camp lantern
A battery powered radio that will pick up emergency announcements
A propane stove with extra cartridges
A whistle so you can signal rescuers
Plastic tarp to protect you if you must stay outside in bad weather
Metal dishes, cups, eating utensils
A few pots and pans
Dishsoap and moist towelettes
Garbage bags (which can be improvised for use as a toilet in an emergency)
Toilet paper
A wrench or pliers that can be used to turn off utilities.  (Make sure you know how to do this before an emergency occurs.)

You may also want to have items like sleeping bags or a tent stored with your emergency supplies.

Why We Need to be Prepared

As we get older, it is easy to assume that someone will come rescue us if we are in danger.  However, as we saw with Hurricane Katrina and many other disasters, it can take quite a while before our rescuers are able to reach us.  If at all possible, we want to be able to take care of ourselves and not wait to be rescued.  Being prepared could save your life.

If you are retired or thinking about retiring in the future, you may be interested in reading some of the other posts from this blog.  They are all listed and linked in the index articles below:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

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