Prepping for a family can be a challenge. When you add physical or mental limitations to that challenge, it can become overwhelming.
How can disabled or special needs individuals prepare to survive emergencies or disasters? A disability does not prevent you from being able to survive a disaster. It means that you prepare in the same way as everyone else, and you include special accommodations designed to help your unique circumstances.
Disabilities may include any form of impairment that limits activity. As a general rule, age tends to bring a variety of new limitations. Other considerations include chronic illnesses, mental health issues, hearing loss, impaired vision, mobility restrictions, and significant dietary restrictions.
Remember that just because an individual is impaired in some way does not mean that he or she is not a valuable member of the team. Discover ways to take the best advantage of knowledge and skills and work within limitations. Everyone has some way to contribute.
In this article, we will share some ideas that may be helpful as you design your specialized emergency plan based not only on disabilities but also on your abilities. Focus on your assets and all of the things you can do. You’ve been doing this all along. Now you can do it with a prepper mindset.
Recognizing and Overcoming Physical Limitations
Not all disabilities are permanent, and in some cases, improvement can be realized through changes in diet and exercise. Do everything in your power to manage and improve your situation. Make your body as strong and healthy as you can.
Inability to Walk Distances or to Walk at All
Mobility is a valid concern. You may be limited to walking 3000 steps a day or may not be able to walk at all. Chances are you have already adapted and are still able to function to some extent, even if it is with assistance.
Great items to keep on hand to help with mobility include a standard wheelchair, walker, walking cane, crutches, or anything that may help you be a little more mobile. Remember that many of the threats we face may be accompanied by a power outage. Non-electric options are important to consider.
I have a friend who gets around in an electric scooter at home and in an electric golf cart in the neighborhood. Solar panels and backup batteries could help her to maintain her current level of activity even during an extended grid-down event.
Design Living Space to Encourage Mobility
Thoughtful design and planning can make it significantly easier for someone with physical limitations to be safe and mobile in their own space. Because my challenge is multiple sclerosis, we designed our home to be handicap accessible from the start.
Our hallways, doorways, kitchen, and bathrooms are designed to accommodate a wheelchair. There are no steps leading up to the front door. Everything needed for daily life is located on the main floor, including the master bedroom. Even simple changes such as adding support rails or grab bars can make a difference.
Fall prevention is critically important in avoiding injuries that can make a situation worse. Don’t take any risks with someone who is a bit fragile.
A permanent or temporary disability may occur as a result of a disaster. Taking time to prepare in advance can make adapting to new limitations significantly easier.
Limitations on Lifting and Reaching
Lifting heavy objects may no longer be a possibility. Make sure that emergency water is stored in containers that do not require lifting in order to dispense. Cases of water bottles are much more convenient than a 55-gallon water barrel.
Water tanks with an easy-to-access spigot at the bottom may be a good solution for some individuals.
Store food in smaller, easy-to-open containers. A year supply of food stored in heavy, hard-to-open 5-gallon buckets becomes totally impractical for someone who can’t lift over 10 pounds. However, Mylar bags or #10 cans may be manageable. Consider physical limitations when designing your food storage locations and containers. Purchase a manual can opener that you can actually use.
A reach extender may be a valuable tool to help you safely grab objects that are out of reach.
Prepare Service Animals to Evacuate and to Shelter-In-Place
Service animals are an incredible blessing. Sometimes Grandma’s little dog doesn’t qualify as a service animal but is every bit as important to her overall well-being.
Be sure to have everything in place to take care of animals including food, water, collar (with tags), leashes, immunization records, and pet carrier. Hopefully, you will just be able to stay home together and ride out the storm. Make sure that you have a survival kit for the service animal, or pet, packed and ready to go if you need to evacuate.
Backup Power for Home Medical Devices
Home medical equipment such as a portable oxygen concentrator, CPAP machine, infusion pump, nebulizer, or a ventilator are examples of equipment that require electricity to work. Patients dependent on these devices can suffer or die without the power to run this critical equipment.
Reliable backup power becomes a top priority if you have these needs. Consider a battery bank that can be charged by solar energy or a generator to provide the power that you need.
Be sure to stock extra batteries needed for a blood pressure monitor, oxygen monitor or pulse oximeter, thermometers, blood glucose meter, or any other equipment that you use to monitor your condition.
Stocking Up On Critical Medications
A handy way to make sure you always have a month of critical meds is to keep a daily pill organizer stocked. Not only will it keep a month of medications organized but it helps to ensure that meds are taken on schedule even when life gets a little crazy.
This also ensures that a backup supply is always on hand. It is a good idea to have at least a month’s supply, and be working toward more. A year supply of chronic life-sustaining medications is a worthy goal.
Talk to your medical provider about building up a supply of critical medications. Insurance companies limit the amount that you can purchase at one time. It is possible to build up a backup supply, while still taking advantage of your insurance benefits, by filling your prescription every 25 days instead of every 30 days.
Ask your physician for samples they get from drug reps at no charge. If they have some available, use the samples and fill the prescriptions immediately. That will kick-start your backup supplies immediately.
In some cases, your physician will write prescriptions that you can pay for in cash instead of going through your insurance. If you have a trusting relationship with your provider, he or she just might work with you. Controlled substances are highly regulated and most physicians will not allow you to stock up on those. Learn to control pain with alternative methods if possible.
Be sure to keep medications rotated and use the oldest ones first. Store medications in a cool, dry, dark location to increase the viable shelf life.
A few articles that may interest you as you stock up on medications include:
- Prepper Home Pharmacy: The Best Medications to Stockpile
- Shelf-Life of Vitamin Supplements in a Survival Food Supply
- Prepping Tools for Medical Care
- Antibiotic Stockpiling
Power Outage Options for Refrigerated Medication
Some medications must be stored in a refrigerator. If this applies to you, consider purchasing a small portable propane refrigerator and safely store enough propane to see you through the disaster. A backup battery bank charged with a generator or solar power may also be an option for powering a tiny portable refrigerator.
It is a bit risky to store medications that must be maintained at a certain temperature in a root cellar. However, if you have no other option you may want to consider building some type of a root cellar to keep meds as well as foods cold.
When Food Storage Must Be More than Just Basic Calories
Many people have food allergies or important dietary considerations. Food storage should be personalized to meet the needs of the individual. Consider storing foods that meet the following criteria:
- Foods that are easy to prepare
- Foods that comply with dietary restrictions
- Foods that are edible without cooking
- Foods that are easily accessed and consumed
Easily Accessible Clean Water Sources
Dehydration can be deadly, especially for those who are already in a fragile state. As we briefly discussed above, stored drinking water must be easily accessible. Water is heavy, which can make it a bit challenging to handle. Dehydration is especially dangerous for those with disabilities.
Good emergency water sources that are easily accessible include:
- Disposable water bottles
- Blue Can Water or other canned drinking water
- Individually packaged water pouches
- Water barrels in an accessible place with a spigot that can be easily accessed
Purchase a water filtration system that is simple to use and does not require physical strength. Filters that require strong suction like Life Straw or some bottle water filters may require too much physical strength to work well for a compromised individual.
Gravity-fed water filtration and purification systems, such as a Travel Berkey, are generally the easiest filters to use and access water from. Select the filter that requires the least amount of physical work to produce clean, safe drinking water.
Depending on the disability, personalized sleeping accommodations may be necessary. The lack of restful sleep can aggravate many conditions and make physical symptoms worse.
What do you need to get a good night’s sleep?
- Sleep medications or natural supplements
- White noise, silence, or music
- Air movement
- Pillow, blanket, or special padding such as an egg crate mattress
- Complete darkness or a nightlight
- CPAP machine or oxygen
Realistically consider the unique needs of the individual and see what you can do to provide as much comfort as possible.
Adequate Safe Lighting
Even simple falls can prove dangerous, even fatal, to the elderly or disabled. Make sure to provide adequate safe lighting especially during a power outage.
Immediate Access to Safe Light Source
It is a good idea to have individual lighting options that are easily accessible. A flashlight or push button light on the nightstand is a good idea. Consider battery-operated options rather than flame options to increase the safety factor. I am a big fan of rechargeable solar lighting options.
Trips to the bathroom can be potentially hazardous. It is important to have some form of lighting in the bathroom will help to reduce the possibility of injury.
For more ideas about lighting during a power outage visit our post, Brilliant Ideas to Literally Light Your World in a Power Outage.
Alternative Toilet Options for Sanitation
Meeting personal sanitation needs must be a high priority. Consider what options are available for a person who is unable to make the trip to the bathroom. A bedside commode is a great alternative toilet option. A urinal and bedpan may also be good items to stock for emergencies.
Reasonable Temperature Control
Individuals with compromised immune systems tend to be especially fragile when it comes to changes in temperature. Extreme heat or cold can result in a rapid decline in health or even death. Plan in advance exactly how you can maintain a safe temperature range for your needs.
Evacuation Plan for Elderly and Disabled
If safe transportation to a location out of the area is available, it may be a better choice than hunkering down. Some people may be too fragile or may not be able to handle the stress associated with evacuation. Each situation must be carefully evaluated to determine the best options.
While you may be able to stay and help in the aftermath of an earthquake, it may be best to take Grandma to a friend or family member’s home in a neighboring city where her needs can be managed until things are under control.
Emergency Mode of Transportation
Carefully consider possible travel arrangements for the risks you face. What methods of transportation are available to you? Truck, car, off-road vehicle, golf cart, horse, public transportation. Can the vehicle accommodate a wheelchair? Consider all methods and figure out which ones might work best to take you to your destination.
Practice evacuating a couple of times. Becoming familiar with the plan will make it less stressful during an actual event. Be sure to have a backup plan for your backup plan.
Survival Kit Specialized for the Individual
To ensure the safest and least stressful evacuation possible, prepare well in advance. This includes stocking an individual survival kit.
Select a bag or container designed to accommodate the needs and level of mobility of the user. I am quite fond of the Zuca Travel bag because of the organizational capability, built-in seat, and sturdy wheels. A sturdy suitcase with heavy-duty wheels can be made to work.
Remember a disabled person isn’t going to be able to carry a backpack and bug out to a remote mountain location. Be realistic.
Are there parts of this survival kit that the person can realistically carry? Perhaps a fanny pack with critical medications, contact numbers, medical history, identification, water bottle, and snacks. If they are wheelchair-bound, maybe the packs can be attached to the wheelchair.
Attached to the survival kit, keep a list of “last minute” items to grab. For instance; medications, oxygen concentrator, cane, etc.
You can find more information to build the perfect survival kit at How to Create the Perfect Emergency Survival Kit.
Written Contact Numbers and Medical History
Keep a written or printed copy of contact numbers along with a current medical history (including medications) in the evacuation kit. Post a copy where it is easy to find by rescue workers or neighbors. We like to keep ours on the door inside of our front coat closet.
It is always a good idea to have critical documents organized in one place. Visit our post How to Organize Critical Documents for Emergency Evacuation for some great ideas to get your important documents organized.
Elderly or Disabled Living Alone
If you are living alone, it is important to develop relationships with others who can assist you when disaster strikes. The fact that you are facing your challenges alone demonstrates your ability to make good decisions and take care of yourself.
All of us do better when we look out for each other. A disaster scenario is one of those times that we need to work together. Good community relationships improve the quality of our everyday life. Start your own survival group. Reach out to family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, clubs, or local church groups and build strong relationships.
We have an established system in our neighborhood where we look out for each other. Sometimes it is taking a meal to someone who is sick, inviting a lonely widower for dinner, mourning for the loss of a loved one, or helping pull weeds. Sometimes it is just a party or a friendly chat over the fence. It is not invasive but we all know where we can turn for help when we need it.
Conquer Discouragement – You Can Prepare and Survive!
It may be easy to become discouraged and just accept whatever fate knocks down your door. Don’t give in to that kind of “stinkin thinkin!” You have so much to offer and by making advanced preparations you can safely navigate your way through most risks you may face.
I know several people who will refuse to evacuate. They will take their chances at home and accept whatever fate brings their way. That is a decision you have the right to make. Be sure that it is really the best one for you and those that love you.
Do whatever is in your power to prepare your home to weather the storms and keep you comfortable and safe. It is better to be ready than to have regrets. Small, steady steps get the job done. A week’s supply of food in your home is so much better than no food at all.
Age or Disability Doesn’t Determine Your Worth nor Your Success
You have much to offer others. I have many elderly or disabled friends and family in my life. They make my world better every day. Do not allow your circumstances to define you. Yes, disabilities make life more challenging in many ways. Prepare well and continue to make a difference.
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones
Real Preppers with Disabilities – Real Survival Plans
These are a few of our friends who have shared exactly what they are doing to prepare regardless of their disabilities. They provide some valuable insight that is worth paying attention to.
Everybody’s disabilities are different and thus need to be tailored to each individual. My personal disability limits me to walking a mile at the most and lifting anything over 10 lbs. Also, I cannot carry anything on my back. I can no longer sleep on a hard surface like in a tent on the ground. I need some type of bed. I have many food allergies too. I am unable to do much hard physical labor. One more disability that I have is I have many medications that I must take daily and some of them are refrigerated. One more issue I have is when I lay down or sit for any length of time I need to have fresh air in my face.
So, my first and most important thing I need to deal with is refrigeration or some other method to keep my meds cold but not frozen. The need for this started 19 years ago and that got me into solar energy and being able to use and store electricity to power a small 12-volt cooler to put my meds in. This solar energy also powers a 12-volt fan by my bedside and charges batteries for a portable fan.
To deal with my 10 lb. weight restriction is just to have to move things in pieces or ask for help. If I needed to leave my home on foot for any reason for an extended length of time or possibly never return I have a prepacked trailer that I can hook up to my truck. If I was not able to use my truck and trailer then I have a hand cart that I can fill with up to 65 lbs. and even with my other restriction, I can pull that much weight. You may say that is not a whole lot of stuff and that is true but the pioneers pulled about that much and had similar restrictions.
As far as my food allergies go I rarely will eat what someone else has cooked however nice intentions they may have had. I cook for myself to make sure I am not killed with food I cannot eat.
When it comes to sleeping on the ground my solution is to have a cot with a fairly thick foam pad if I ever need to sleep in those conditions like in a tent.
As far as hard physical labor goes I will just have to do other things. I have many manual skills that are extremely valuable especially in a grid-down scenario. So I can barter my skills with other people’s hard manual labor that I might need.
The last issue is with my meds. I have purchased, without insurance (note: very expensive to do this), up to about an 18 month supply of most of my meds. Okay, that gives me 18 more months of life that I probably would not have. After 18 months well we will just have to see what happens. I have lots of faith and that might just keep me alive.
John Fortwengler’s Plan
My Cerebral Palsy is mild. I can do most of what you can like drive walk do household chores. Walking is more difficult than for you so long walks with a pack would be taxing. I’m out of shape besides the Cerebral Palsy. Trying to get into better shape by walking and camping when I get the time.
I need to get in a group of like-minded preppers in my area. That is a tough one. I’m an old Eagle Scout so I have some skills like camping, knots, camp craft, bushcraft, and first aid.
Here is what I’m working on:
Long-term food is okay. Water storage needs work. I need more first aid supplies, self-defense, and I need a group.
MOST IMPORTANT IS SKILLS [they can’t take skills away and skills don’t have any weight.] Fire building, knife and axe handling, lashings, first aid, herbal plants, and medicines. Reference books are great but you also need practice.
I’m a stroke survivor. I had a work-stress-related stroke at age 34. I was a union production stage manager for a live theatre in Texas. Rolled out of bed one Saturday morning to get ready for the matinee, and just fell over, boom. Got fired, got thrown out of company-provided housing, yadda yadda … it was a big mess.
What works for me, is to try to prep 3 or 4 steps ahead of any obvious immediate need. For example … I have bad sleep apnea, so I must sleep with a CPAP machine. I named it Snort. Of course, this means a spare mask and spare tubing and a couple of spare chin straps, but additionally, I’ve got to have ready a spare way to power Snort if I lose grid power. So my solution is to have a 12-volt adapter for Snort, and a couple of batteries and a solar set up to recharge them.
On a more mundane front, I’ve prepped a bedside commode that I can transfer into/out of. With a kajillion liner bags. And boxes of the turn-waste-to-gel packets, because it is much easier to haul a bag of gel with a wheelchair. And a burn barrel in the backyard, because I have no way to dig a hole to bury the bags. Which creates an odor-discipline problem, I realize. Still don’t have that one 100% solved yet, obviously.
In my humble opinion, being a disabled prepper is just like being a non-disabled prepper. Except maybe you have to plan things a little more intricately.