« Return to Blogs

Emergency Planning Musts for Seniors

Emergency Planning Musts:

By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau

Limited mobility and medical conditions can make seniors particularly vulnerable during natural disasters.

Just consider some of the stories that emerged after November's Hurricane Sandy and how seniors were dealt an especially hard blow.

Many were trapped without power and water for days in high-rise buildings.

Some took daring steps to escape rising water.

Others drowned in their homes.

So planning for emergencies, whether they're hurricanes in Florida, blizzards in Newfoundland, or earthquakes and forest fires in California, is critical for seniors and their caretakers.

During the holiday season when you're visiting with family and elderly relatives, take some time to address disaster planning.

Here are 7 basics.

1. Disaster kits. Put together an emergency kit that allows your family member to shelter in place for several days. Include water (enough for three to six days per person, which equals at least one gallon per person per day), flashlights, batteries, and non-perishable food.

Check the kit at least twice per year to be sure batteries and food are still fresh. Also, have a plan for medicine and be sure there's a back-up power strategy if loved ones rely on electricity to power special health equipment.

2. Resources.   Understand the local resources that are available to seniors in advance of disasters. Have phone numbers for the state, county and local services available before a crisis. The U.S. Red Cross (see "additional resources"), for instance, has a "locate a shelter" section on its website to help you and loved ones find a place to stay.

3. Point people. Develop relationships with your loved one's neighbors and friends, particularly if you live far away, and keep their contact information current. They could help evacuate your relatives, provide shelter for them, or keep an eye on them during an emergency. They can also give you some updates and peace, if you can't be there to help.

4. Staying informed. Be certain that your loved ones have access to the most current emergency information. For instance, post key phone numbers in a visible spot and be certain a working, battery-operated radio is accessible.

5. Pet plans. Many people, young and old, end up in treacherous situations because they don't want to leave their pets alone and decide not to evacuate in an emergency. So also plan for pet care. Identify shelters that accept pets, hotels where pets are welcome, or friends or family where loved ones can go with their animal companions. In addition, have a bag with pet food and medicine and other necessities, such as cages, leashes, and so forth, ready to go.

6. Safety at home. Identify escape routes and create a safe place within the house or apartment where loved ones can go during a tornado or severe storm. Be sure the space is comfortable and equipped with necessities (chair, blankets, and water, for example) and that the space is accessible. For instance, a crawl space isn't a realistic safety spot for someone who isn't agile.

7. Additional resources. Here are some sites that feature checklists and information to help you develop a personalized plan.

·        Red Cross: www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/seniors

·        Canadian Red Cross: www.redcross.ca/article.asp?id=33841

·        U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency: www.ready.gov/natural-disasters

·        Administration on Aging: www.aoa.gov/Preparedness/Resources_Individuals%5Cindex.aspx and www.aoa.gov/AoA_Programs/HCLTC/Caregiver/docs/Just_in_Case030706_links.pdf

·        Government of Canada: www.getprepared.gc.ca/index-eng.aspx

Do you know about Walk Score®?
If not, you should.

Walk Score® (www.walkscore.com) is a nifty site you can use both when you're shopping for a new neighborhood and when you're working with a real estate practitioner to market your house.

The site measure walkability and ranks cities, neighborhoods, and specific addresses on a 0-100 scale.

In calculating rankings, Walk Score® measures proximity to an array of daily living necessities, such as  transit and health care and venues, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and parks.  

 How you can use Walk Score:

-Research your next home. If walking is important to you as you age, you can type in a specific address to see how a house or condo you're considering ranks.

As an example, Walk Score gives one address in a Chicago lakefront neighborhood a 92 and calls it a Walker's Paradise because of its excellent access to public transit and restaurants, and a grocery store that is situated within  524 feet. 

An address in a suburb 40 miles outside Chicago ranks a mere 15. Why? To accomplish nearly all errands, residents need a car. But move within that same suburb's downtown and the score rises to 78 because more amenities are accessible on foot.

Thetford Mines, a Quebec town, scores a 52, and Walk Score describes it as somewhat walkable. Toronto gets a solid 100 because, says the site, daily errands don't require a car.

-Market your house. If you're selling your house, type in your address to see its score. If it's a good one, the number can be a marketing advantage. Be sure your real estate practitioner is aware of Walk Score and that he or she promotes your home's high ranking in your property’s marketing materials.  

Some long-term care costs rise

In addition to a city's walkability, another consideration when assessing retirement venues is the cost of care, whether that's nursing or assisted living facilities or in-home care. 

MetLife Mature Market Institute released its annual survey, "The 2012 MetLife Market Survey of Nursing Home, Assisted Living, Adult Day Services, and Home Care Costs," and it's no surprise that some costs in the United States have risen.

Since 2011, for instance, nursing home rates climbed by 3.8%. The average price of a private room in a U.S. nursing home stands at $248 per day.

Care costs, of course, vary by place, and even within a state and a metro area, rates can be quite different.

Here are two charts from the study. One gives you a snapshot of the national picture and the other is a spot check of nursing home costs around the country.

To see complete charts and to compare costs for specific cities, see https://www.metlife.com/mmi/research/2012-market-survey-long-term-care-costs.html?WT.ac=PRO_PRO_MMI-MMI+in+TheNews_5-20260_T4297-MM-mmi&oc_id=PRO_PRO_MMI-MMI+in+TheNews_5-20260_T4297-MM-mmi#keyfindings.

 Summary of National Findings


Nursing Homes


Assisted Living Communities

Home Care

Adult Day Services



Semi-private room

Private room


Home Health Aide



Rate type







2012 Average Rate







2011 Average Rate







Percent increase from 2011








2012 Annual Rate








Nursing Home Costs 2012



Semi Private Room (Average Cost)

Private Room

(Average Cost)










Rest of state









Los Angeles



San Diego



San Francisco









Des Plaines area






New York



New York