What If Your Aging Parents Refuse to Evacuate in a Hurricane?
In the United States, the weekend news focused on the story of Hurricane Irene, before, during and after the storm hit. There was one news story I heard that raised some practical, even ethical, questions for family caregivers regarding natural disasters, emergency plans and our aging parents (or Golden Oldies as I prefer to call them).
A TV reporter was interviewing a man in a NY suburb outside his father’s house the morning after Hurricane Irene passed through. He was talking about how his 93-year-old father refused to evacuate, even when the water started coming into his house through the front and back doors. The son, wearing waders to walk through the waist-deep flood waters, was talking to the reporter outdoors, had already checked on his father who remained ensconced on the second floor of his house, and luckily was okay.
That’s a happy ending. But . . . it brought up many questions in my mind:
- Do people have the right to ignore mandatory evacuation orders?
- Do we as adult children have the right to force our aged parents to evacuate? Or, should we respect their decision not to leave their homes even if it could put them in harm’s way? Does their safety override treating them with dignity and respect?
- Although my parents have passed away, what would I have done in this situation? I’m still thinking this one over. On the one hand, I’d want to insist they leave; but on the other hand, they are adults and entitled to their own opinions and decisions.
- What would you do if your parents decided not to evacuate?
- If you decide to make them evacuate, could you physically do so? I’m barely 5’2′ and petite — I doubt I could have done it alone.
- How prepared are we and our Golden Oldies for any natural disasters that might occur to our homes? There was also a rare earthquake on the east coast of the United States last week that many people had no idea how to respond to safely, according to news reports I heard.
- How prepared are assisted living, board & cares, and skilled nursing facilities for natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and tornadoes? If your aging relatives are residents of a senior community, please find out. Ask exactly how detailed their emergency plans are, where the residents would be evacuated to, what basic life-sustaining supplies they keep on hand, if their caregivers would remain on the job or go home to be with their families, and who the back up caregivers would be? You have a right to know how your loved ones’ care could be affected by a natural disaster, and decide if you’d want to bring your Golden Oldies to your home in this critical situation.
- What would these senior communities do if one or some of their residents chose not to evacuate? Do they have a plan in place in case that occurs?
Even if we don’t have all the answers to these questions now, they are worth asking, discussing with our Golden Oldies and making emergency preparedness plans before Mother Nature strikes again.
Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below. I’m curious about what you have to say.
NOTE: The American Red Cross is one place to find excellent information and local resources for emergency planning and response. You can do so by clicking here.