Family Survival: Grandparents

When thinking about emergency preparedness and preparing for a possible event, Getting Out Of Dodge is often part of the plans.  If possible we want to be able to relocate our families to a remote location.  Planning to also move an elderly loved one requires a whole new set of plans and ideas.

The Problem

During a crisis, if we are slow to make the decision to leave or if the SHTF event is so large that it causes a mass emergency planning for elderlyexodus, we may be confronted with a massive traffic jam and forced to leave our vehicle.  In that case we have to plan on putting our bug out bag (BOB) on our back and start hiking.  All we need is a map, a compass, some skill at map reading and a good pair of hiking shoes for each member of the family.

Unfortunately, it may not be that simple. We may have an elderly or sickly family member who we are responsible for that would require special care during a SHTF Event.  We could try to squeeze them into our vehicle with the rest of the family members but that would be traumatic at best, and if we were confronted with a traffic jam or a possible EMP event that disables our vehicle, what would we do?  If you plan on moving your elderly loved ones by vehicle, you also need to face the real possibility of having to walk at some point with them.  You need a plan.

Bugging In

A real possibility is that ‘bugging out’ is just not possible under these scenarios.  Depending on the emergency evacuation of handicapped peopleage or illness of your loved one and if you are unable to bug out for several days before the event, “hunkering down” may well be your only option.  This is always a possibility but it becomes more likely with sick, aged or injured in your family.  In this case, prudence may indicate increasing the preparations at the primary location.  Remember, all survival preparation is a compromise.  You will never have all of the gear you want and your location will never be perfect.  In this case we accept a decrease in flexibility for the sake of our loved ones.  If moving to a more favorable location is not a realistic possibility, then we must make the best of the hand we were dealt.

Focus of efforts

If planning to stay put for the sake of loved ones, plan for the basics.  Food, water, shelter, planning for an emergency, emergency preparednesswarmth, medicine, medical equipment, hygiene products, and back up power if needed.  Finding out about your elderly loved one’s needs is a “talk” you should have before a major event.  By having this talk, you do not have to raise the alarm bells, just ask them to go through their daily routine with you (pills they take, appointments, shots & dosage, hygiene products they use, use of medical equipment that requires electricity, comfort food they like to eat, etc).  After that talk you can then work on your own plan to help them through an emergency.

Here are some basics to help you start planning:

  • Teach others how to operate necessary medical equipment
  • Write a detailed list of “How to Give Care” (This is your back-up)
  • Prescription medicines, list of medications including dosage, list of any allergies
  • Try to acquire an extra 30 to 60 day supply of prescription drugs
  • Look for natural alternatives to medicines that may be available at the health food stores
  • Extra eyeglasses and hearing-aid batteries
  • Extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen
  • List of the style and serial numbers of medical devices such as pacemakers
  • Medical insurance and Medicare cards
  • List of doctors and relatives or friends who should be notified if you are injured
  • Extra hygiene products that your loved one uses
  • First-aid kit
  • Have vitamin supplements to make up for unbalanced diet

Plan B

If we think we may be able (or forced) to get out of dodge, then we must try to increase our planning for an emergencychances of a successful evacuation.  One of the possible options that we discussed was having to hike to your retreat.  There are several ways to improve the success of a “walk out” evacuation with an elderly or sick member of your family.  If the terrain is favorable you may consider purchasing a game cart or carrier.  They fold up when not in use and can carry up to about 300 pounds.  They are also fairly inexpensive, for example: Amazon has one on sale for $93.  It would take a careful and tactful explanation to avoid harming our loved ones sense of worth and pride but with proper care, their transportation might be made easier.  On suitable ground this can be a pretty efficient way to transport people or supplies making survival more probable.

Other Ideas

Other ideas include buying a used wheel chair.  Even if your loved one does not require the use of Family Survival for the Elderlya wheel chair right now, this maybe useful in the event that you have to travel a long distance by foot.  The drawback to this is that wheelchairs only travel well over paved surfaces.  Other alternatives to wheel chairs include bicycles or three wheeled bikes if your loved ones are physically able.

Also make sure your loved ones have good walking shoes and walking sticks for balance.  Make sure their shoes are well broken in and they have some water resistance capability such as leather or synthetic material to keep their feet dry.  If you are planning to move your whole family you will also need to plan for outdoor shelter such as a large tent.  Remember, protection from the elements is a core principal of survival.  You will have to weigh the size of the tent vs the “carry weight” in your pack.

By considering the less capable members of your group you increase the confidence in yourself as a planner, bringing a sense of tranquility to the family and increase the chances of survival for everyone.

(From Santa Clara City Government Website)
Studies of disasters show that elderly people:

  • May be at higher nutritional risk in the aftermath of a disaster and may forget to take necessary medications.
  • Are often targeted by fraudulent contractors and “con men” that follow disasters and financially exploit disaster victims.
  • May be susceptible to physical and mental abuse as family stresses increases in later stages of the disaster.
  • Are less likely than younger generations to use formal aid sources such as FEMA or the Red Cross.
  • Have slower economic recovery.
  • Suffer a pattern of neglect in the receiving social support after a natural disaster.
  • Have more health problems after disasters.
  • Do not necessarily comply with disaster warnings.
  • Are often slower to register for disaster assistance, and once they are registered, may not follow through and complete the necessary applications to obtain assistance.

By Hal, a special contribution to

Read “Making the Best of Basics” By James Stevens for Emergency Preparedness

Photos by:
American Red Cross
Soldiers Media Center

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20 thoughts on “Family Survival: Grandparents”

  1. Some excellent points. As we get older, our independence becomes more important to us; sometimes to our detriment. Dealing with our older relatives does pose special problems, physically and emotionally.

    During Ike, my mother-in-law was going to ride it out with 'friends' who then left without telling her they were going. I had to make a 60 mile round trip in tropical storm conditions to get her before the worst of it hit. I was not a happy camper! Not only did it put us both in harms way, I used gasoline I didn't have to spare and I was very worried I might not be allowed back into a mandatory evacuation area. Fortunately, by then all of the LEO were hunkered down waiting for the storm to blow over so I made it back to my wife. Adding the drain the unplanned for person put on our supplies, I was glad we were prepared for more than just 3 days. It took over a week just to get electricity back.

    Among the preparations I DIDN'T make was a way to keep her from opening the refrigerator door and just looking to see if there was anything she might want to eat. (there is now a strap to go around the door above her reaching ability) The plan was to load up a couple of ice chests each morning, then run the generator for an hour or so to cool the fridge and freezer back down, make more ice for the next day, and then just shut everything down until the next day and do it again. Every time she opened the door to the fridge, it was an hour of generator to cool everything back down. Instead of an hour a day, it could be 3 or 4. A real drain on fuel resources. Similar issues with her outdoor cats; our dogs would have LOVED them in the house, if they could have been caught! As it was they were hiding out in various places to ride out the storm. I am afraid I wasn't as charitable as I might have been telling her to leave them to themselves, we were leaving NOW!

    Anyone who tells you they are not afraid of a major hurricane has either never been in one, is a liar, or a fool. I was scared and worried I wouldn't be able to take care of 'she who must be obeyed'. I do not like being afraid. This was a 'black swan' for me. I should have seen it coming (the clues were there in Rita) and prepared for it. I didn't and it could have been much more serious that it was. It turned out well, but I do not enjoy depending on luck.

  2. My Bug out plan is to get to my Grandparents and Bug in once my family and I are there. They have a large cattle farm, a sizable garden, a decent gun collection, and live on top of a freaking plateau 20 minutes outside a town with less than 10,000 people. I live close enough to them now that I wouldn't even have to take a highway or interstate to get there.

    • Jacob, sounds good as long as everybody is on board with it. I assume you've talked it over with them but if not, it might not hurt to ask them what they'd like you to bring in order to contribute to the supplies. It is always a good idea to have consumables you bring to off set those you are going to use.

  3. As hard as it is to say or think about, sometimes you have to face acceptable causalities. If there is a major event and the world goes to the sh*tter – you might be stuck between trying to drag Grandmother from the nursing home or saving the rest of your family. Just like the elderly, you might have a brother or sister that lives 20 miles south of the city in the wrong direction. How are you going to get there and back if the highways are parking lots?? And will they be there when you get there? There may come a time when you have to decide, is it worth risking the rest of my family to save one person? I don't know the answers to that question. I am sure it will be something that each of us will have to wrestle with when the time comes. Something to think about….

    • The military has the concept of acceptable losses but most civilians can't get their minds wrapped around it; nor should they have to do so in most cases. In mass casualty triage someone has to make the decision of "I can save this person or these four people, who gets saved?" Tough when it is strangers but family? One thing to recognize is that there is a world of difference between a rescue mission into hostile territory (combat ops) and providing the best chance for our less capable family members to make it.
      Survival is as much about mental survival as about physical survival. PTSD has killed many who got through without physical wounds. We must decide how much physical risk we can tolerate for the mental health of the group. The fact that I have a Suburban with off road package and high torque engine allowed me to choose to go after my mother-in-law during Ike. In a straight car, I wouldn't have made it. Waiting a day before GOOD to give family a chance to join you is chancy, but it might be necessary for the psychological health of everyone, as an example. Trusting the nursing home to do the right thing may be required depending on the situation. Dispersed members may have to GOOD on their own, which will be tough if they are the only ones to make it. Survivor's guilt is a terrible burden. You will have to fall back on the 'did I make the best decision I could, based on the available information' question. An undesirable outcome does not mean you made a bad decision. Saying that and living with it when the kids know you LEFT grandma behind at the home is tough. Hopefully, by preparing properly, the who do I leave behind choice doesn't have to ever be made.

  4. Well, they're old and probably full of meds, so I wouldn't count on them being a healthy, reliable, source of protein…

    Joking of course.

  5. We have a color printer at home that doubles as a fax and copy machine. My daughter came up with the idea of photo copying each persons morning and evening pill consumption with name and size next to a photocopy of the pill. If I have to fill out the containers for everyone (we keep a three week supply with one week always in reserve) the photocopy makes it easy to verify the right pills in the right containers. Helps keep the meds sorted.

    • Good to have around all the time. Very helpful to EMS personnel when you have a medical emergency. Way more useful that handing them a bag full of pill bottles!

      Ideal info: Patient’s name(b-day is nice, but not essential), names of the meds with dosage info, drug allergies. You get extra credit for listing patient’s medical history. 🙂

  6. Good points.
    My wife and I care for her elderly parents. Her mother suffers from a stroke several years ago and her father had dementia. Any major move would probably end in a fatal event for one or both of her parents.
    We live in Southeast Florida, with a population of several million. There would be no logical way to exit this area in a SHTF situation.
    My wife and I has talked about this several times and have taken steps to bug in. This not only includes food, medication and communications, but I have also taken the steps to provide grid down electricity with solar panels. Preperations have been going on for two years now, but we are always looking at alternatives from others on thier efforts that are similar to ours.

  7. My granny is 90 years old and for the most part wheel chair bound, but her mind is still sharp as a tack and she is skilled at sewing, crochet, and canning. She has contributed so much to my family and continues to do so. So, as long as that onry lil ol' lady is breathing she will be coming with us even if I have to make a travois and drag her out behind my horse. So, while she may very well die en-route from the stress of a move, my family has decided that we will never leave one of our own behind, we live together and die together. I just pray that WTSHTF , we don't have to face an issue like this.

  8. My Grandpa is also 90, and also sharp as a tack. He can walk short distances with his cane but spends most of his time seated in his lazy-boy recliner. I also have a 65 year old mother in poor health and a 2 year old daughter. Bugging Out would be difficult if not impossible for us. We also live in RI (yes, Rhode Island…) where we typically experience at least 4 months of glorious winter each year. If SHTF and we're deep into winter then no one's going anywhere in 2 ft of snow, no fuel is getting delivered, and no one is going out for food unless you count picking off small game from the back deck. My hubby and I are working on our preparedness including security, food, fuel, a 5kw genset and soon to be installing a wood burning stove for secondary heat source (with oil prices, maybe primary heat source). Bugging Out would be a last ditch effort with the entire family in tow. Realistically, one of us would be carrying the baby, one pushing grandpa and my mom would have to walk… we know we couldn't go far like that so bugging in is our best option. Great article and discussion, it raised a lot a thought provoking issues to be considered for any planner.

  9. i am full time caregiver for my handicapped mother in law. we live together but she is certainly not the type to ask or willingly recieve help. which is why i have to handle her. she has been partially paralyzed for 5 years now and although she would qualify for state aid she refuses to get it. major drain on us financially. in the event of a bug out scenario we would take her as far as we could in a vehicle, but beyond that i honestly dont know. a wheelchair would not help us as we are in an extremely rural area and it would be days to reach our bol on foot. ive considered a "stretcher" of some sort for part of it, and hubby and i could carry her. im just afraid she'd try to pull the whole"leave me to die" thing and i dont want to make that call. i am having her work up a list of her meds, allergies and any important information we would need just in case of an emergency. but as far as prepping, she is an ostrich. she refuses to believe nothing could happen, even though she has ridden out hurricanes in florida, and tornadoes in kansas. i dont know how to get her on board at all

  10. Each case requires assessment individually. Often we forget that the elderly can have some survival knowledge that we don't know about. How many of them lived through the depression and know things we are just learning now like canning and gardening. I see both sides of the potential dilemma. How we treat others, especially our families, will be the new "normal" for society in a post-SHTF society. What kind of world do we want? What memories, wisdom, and knowledge do we want to preserve? By the same token, without survival there will be no post-SHTF society. My personal decision is to plan to help others as much as I can beginning first with family and then neighbors. Each person/family group will have to make those hard decisions and it is a good idea to have it thought out beforehand.

  11. What wonderful folks you all are. In this case I am the old one who is doing the prep. My adult children dont think any thing will happen and I am old enough to remember bad times. We will have to hunker down where we are. My home will be fortified by me, and our supplies will be my job, which I dont mind, I have a mind for items needed if you know what I mean. I have my edc bag set up and am working on a bug out bag for my self just in case. I can either ride or pack out on one of my horses if need be. To me it isn't just your supplies but your knowledge is what is mostly times like this. I am old fat and one onery old woman ~S~ I will survive.


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