By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: I'm the sole caregiver for my 82-year-old mother, but I live half-way across the country from her. How can I help her get prepared in case of a big emergency when I'm not there to help her? Mark in Wisconsin, 54

ANSWER: I strongly recommend that everyone knows their local community's plans in case of an emergency or disaster. What are the flood escape routes, earthquake plans, and fire mandates? Also visit the local Red Cross center with her and see if they have any suggestions and/or literature that can be brought home to help with safety education. Some material is even available via computer downloads. Many Red Cross facilities also offer affordable CPR training. Be proactive and take the course. It could save a life.

On the home front, be sure that your mom has practiced what to do if a fire were to occur. Does she know to call 911, and then leave the premises in designated escape route? And based on experience, I tell all of my clients that they also need a plan to get in touch with family members once they have escaped an emergency. More than once, I have seen people evacuate a burning building, then not realize that other family members were also safely outside. This can result in rescuers risking their lives going back in to the building when everyone was already safely outside. Have a meeting spot picked out ahead of time if possible, and try to call each other on your cell phones. Just like a fire drill at school or in the workplace, families should practice this at home.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.