How California’s Seniors and Caregivers Can Prepare for Wildfire Season?

2018 has been a tragically record year for wildfires in California, with more than 1.2 million acres burned this year; 23,000 of them burned during the nearby Holy Fire alone. Adding to the devastation, over 21,000 homes have been destroyed throughout the state. And unfortunately, this year’s wildfire season isn’t over, with some experts forecasting it will extend well into the autumn months. While wildfires impact people of all ages, often times seniors are particularly hard-hit. But there are many ways to be prepared.

According to a recent survey by SCAN Health Plan, a not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plan dedicated to keeping seniors healthy and independent, a vast majority (88 percent) of seniors in California prefer to age in place (i.e., in their own homes), reinforcing the importance of knowing how to prepare and respond to wildfires. While the timing and impact of any natural disaster is far from predictable, thinking ahead is a critical step in ensuring the best possible outcome. Below are a few tips to equip seniors, caregivers and their family members with what they’ll need to be ready in the event of a wildfire emergency.

  • Know where to access the care you need—Evacuees can and should be able to access the medical care, supplies and prescription drugs they need during an emergency situation. SCAN Health Plan, for example, covers out-of-area urgent and emergency care, and will lift certain requirements so that members can refill or replace prescriptions and medically”necessary supplies. Visit California Wildfires Statewide Recovery for more information on resources available to you, should you be displaced.
  • Prepare for dangerous weather conditions—Extreme heat, high winds and poor air quality caused by fires create unique hazards for older adults—especially those with chronic conditions such as asthma, lung disease, dementia or diabetes. Seniors and caregivers should keep extra medication on hand, stock extra batteries for necessary medical support equipment, and prepare portable food, water and clothing to take, should they receive evacuation orders.
  • Obtain an emergency-ready tool: Containers such as Vial of Life are free and can be placed on the refrigerator door or in the glove compartment, making all vital information about your medical history accessible for emergency personnel. Additionally, bracelets and necklaces from organizations like MedicAlert ensure first responders are aware of any important medical conditions, should a person fall or be otherwise incapacitated during an evacuation or rescue effort.

By Dr. Romilla Batra, chief medical officer, SCAN Health Plan—a not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plan dedicated to keeping seniors healthy and independent.

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