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Neurology Now Blog: Eight Ways to Stay Safe in Bad Weather

By Fran Kritz​

For some folks an impending snow or ice storm just means updating the Netflix account and putting the shovel in a reachable place. But for people with a neurologic condition, and the people who love and care for them, more prep is needed.

Would you have enough medication if a power outage meant pharmacies stayed closed for days or you had to be evacuated? Will the storm keep your home health aide from getting to your house? Do you have a current diagnosis and treatment plan in case you need to explain your condition to a new doctor if you leave your home and community for a few days, or longer? Planning now can help reduce setbacks in your condition, and make you even more resilient knowing you've met the challenge of a disruption.

The average citizen can access a list of tips on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website (Ready.gov) about such things as how to prepare front walkways and cars before a storm, and making sure you have flashlights and batteries on hand. People with neurologic conditions often need more specific tips such as having access to a manual wheelchair if a power outage makes an electric wheelchair unusable, for example.

1. Take inventory of all medications. Order any that are running low, and make a list of the drugs you take and at what doses, and keep the list handy. If you are seen by a new doctor after an evacuation or permanent move, the list will be helpful. Some insurance plans allow one extra refill of each medicine per year to cover lost or misplaced medication, says Pinky Agarwal, M.D., F.A.A.N., a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders in Kirkland, WA. She recommends taking advantage of this provision to purchase an extra supply for an emergency kit. "But check the expiration date of medications in that kit every six months to be sure you can still use them. If you're nearing the expiration date, consider using the emergency kit doses now and replacing with prescriptions you refill with later expiration dates." And don't forget about nonprescription drugs such as stool softeners and pain relievers.

2. Shop at national chains. If you get your prescriptions at CVS or Walgreens and move across town or across states because of a storm, these national chains will be able to access your drug records and can help you refill medications. Have a list of your doctors and their contact information.

3. Designate a safety buddy. If you live alone and it's safe to stay at home, choose someone who will check in on you by phone, or if possible, in person once it's safe to travel.

4. Investigate shelters. A dedicated Red Cross website at bit.ly/OpenShelters can tell you where local shelters are located, but you may have to call ahead to register for shelters that can house people with disabilities, says Jill McClure, patient services manager at the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. You can also call 311, the number many cities use to provide area information of all kinds.

5. Guard against falls. Falls are the number one cause of death for older people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number increases for people with a mobility disability and can rise still more when you add in slippery snow and ice. Ask a family member, neighbor, or friend to shovel snow off walkways, front stoops, and porches, and don't be shy about using a cane or walker or a friend's arm, even if you only use them rarely, to be more confident of your footing, says McClure.

6. Minimize confusion. If a person with dementia must be relocated or evacuated, be sure they take something familiar such as a blanket or picture from their room, to help ease anxiety, says Zaldy Tan M.D., medical director of the UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program.

7. Keep cellphones charged. A power outage means landlines won't work so be sure your cell phone is fully charged ahead of a storm. To keep it powered, order a battery-powered phone charger. Online shopping sites have them for as little as $10, or consider putting that on your wish list for the holidays.

8. Keep vital records safe and accessible. Experts at FEMA advise that well before a storm people should make a record of their personal property, for insurance purposes. Take photos or a video of the interior and exterior of your home as well as all valuable personal belongings. Store important documents such as insurance policies, wills, deeds, property records and medical documents, including model numbers for implanted devices like pacemakers in a safety deposit box away from your home and make copies of the records to store in your disaster supplies kit. And keep some cash on hand. If the power goes out you won't be able to swipe for purchases, nor withdraw funds from an ATM.

Source Date: Dec 12 2016
Source Publication: Neurology Now Blog
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