Emergency Preparedness for Caregivers

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Emergency Preparedness for Caregivers

Alice Frame, MA - MDHHS Disabilities Unit Coordinator

For caregivers of people with disabilities, emergency preparedness is important. Caregivers must plan not only for themselves, but also for the individuals they assist. According to Gershon, Kraus, Raveis, Sherman, & Kailes (2013) in their study of persons with disabilities, of those that relied on caregivers, 63% involved a caregiver in their emergency plan development. However only 29% had a communications plan to reach their caregiver in an emergency. Therefore, it is vitally important for caregivers for those with disabilities be prepared for emergencies as well.

In many ways, emergency preparedness planning for caregivers is like that of anyone: they should make a plan, build an emergency bag or kit, and fill out an emergency plan. However, there are a few extra steps they should take to better prepare:

  • Consider specific needs of the individual with the disability: Many people with disabilities and aging adults have unique needs and should be considered when building an emergency kit, such as:
    • Dietary needs
    • Medication
    • Communication assistive devices
    • Service animals
  • Practice: Everyone should practice an emergency preparedness plan, but caregivers may need to practice emergency plans with the individuals they work with. For example, individuals with intellectual disabilities or individuals with dementia may struggle to understand an emergency plan or to remember the details of it. Practice can help these individuals retain as much of the information as possible to promote better outcomes in an actual emergency.
  • Inform all other acting caregivers: While many individuals with serious disabilities have a primary caregiver, there are usually several other people who also help take care of them. It’s important that everyone involved in the person’s care understands the plan. This could include a spouse, other family members, or direct support professionals. There’s no guarantee that an emergency will only happy when the primary caregiver is around.

It’s important to remember that in the process of planning for the needs of the individual with a disability, caregivers shouldn’t forget about themselves! The better prepared a caregiver for his or her own needs, the more help he or she will be to the person they take care of.


Gershon, R. R. M., Kraus, L. E., Raveis, V. H., Sherman, M. F., & Kailes, J. I. (2013). Emergency preparedness in a sample of persons with disabilities. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, 8(1), 35–47. https://doi.org/10.5055/ajdm.2013.0109