Caring for the Mentally Ill? Do You Have a Disaster Plan?

Dan and I had lived in Iowa for just two months when we received the call that my father-in-law was terribly ill. Within days, Dan and I moved Norman into our house. The next months were a maelstrom of doctors’ appointments as we struggled to find the appropriate diagnoses for what would prove to be a grocery list of physical and mental illnesses.

We raced from pillar to post finding doctors and filling prescriptions and ultimately discovering we were battling Parkinson’s disease, as well we obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as cancer and a heart condition. Some days it could take me an hour simply to get Norman to sit in a chair. Another hour to get him to swallow his collection of pills.

So imagine my horror the morning I awoke to the sound of a tornado siren blaring. A tornado was headed in the direction of our home, and our only hope of safety was to head to the basement of our tri-level home.

Norman had never as much as seen the lower level of our home. His feet had never even touched the carpeted stairs that led to the mid level. We’d settled him comfortably into three rooms with handicap accessibility at the top level of our home. My husband Dan and I had never considered what we’d do in the event of a tornado. And we certainly had NEVER thought of what I’d do if I ever be faced with the challenge of wrangling Norman to the basement on my own — during the hours of the day when Dan was at work.

I’m certain that YOU’RE far more prepared than I was. But just in case, I’d advise the following:

* Think through your emergency response and your emergency route, and PLAN your course of action.

* Prepare emergency supplies so they’re available to grab at a moment’s notice: medication, med lists, physician and emergency phone numbers, assistive devices, batteries or emergency power sources, water, snacks for diabetics.

* Plan where you would go and what you would do to provide an alternate means of care for your loved one if your home was threatened. Make necessary contact or arrangements in advance.

* Talk to neighbors about your plan and ask them to assist in case of emergency. Communicate your plan to family and/or close friends.

* Be aware of weather patterns in your area and stay informed. http:

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