Karen LuBean, of East Wenatchee, Wash., remembers when her pharmacist could provide a year’s supply of her prescription thyroid medication. It cost between $250 and $300, and she kept unused medication in the freezer.
Insurance companies usually won’t allow that anymore. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests ways you can prepare if you take medicines daily or use medical equipment.
First, if possible, keep at least a week’s worth of medication on hand. This includes all prescription medications and anything you need for treatments.
Here are some ways to do it.
FEMA recommends you refill prescriptions on the first day you can do so, not when you run out. Some insurance companies will allow refills a day or two before the date on the bottle. Over time, those early and on-time refills can add up to a decent emergency supply.
Some pharmacies will allow you to get a few days’ supply of your prescription before the insurance company’s time limit if you pay the full price. My family learned this when I accidentally destroyed a bottle of my daughter’s prescription medication. Be warned: this can get costly. We had to pay $20 a pill for an inexpensive generic drug.
Shelly Robertson, of American Fork, Utah, can’t get an emergency supply of medication because of insurance limitations. So she keeps all her prescription medication near her front door. That way, she can quickly grab them if she must evacuate her home.
Second, FEMA recommends you keep written copies of prescriptions, over the counter medicine and orders for medical equipment in an emergency kit. Note dosage and allergy information as well. This information is also handy when you’re seeing a new physician, have to go to an urgent care clinic, or are traveling and don’t have access to your doctor’s records. Consider keeping an electronic copy on a flash drive.
Third, rotate your stock. This goes for prescription medicine and consumable medical supplies, but also for first-aid kits. Did you know that sealed alcohol-based wipes dry out after a few years? I learned the hard way. If you have a first-aid kit in your emergency supplies, update it at least yearly. Also, pay attention to prescription expiration dates. Liquid-suspended antibiotics, for example, last only a few weeks.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to build a first-aid kit. Robertson buys most of hers at a dollar store.
“I got aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Excedrin, all those little bottles of hand sanitizer and petroleum jelly,” she said.
She bought hard candies and throat lozenges for her children to suck on if they have colds. She found BurnFree pain relieving gel for under $5 at Emergency Essentials.
“That stuff is like a miracle,” she said.
Fourth, if you get routine treatment at a clinic or receive services like home health care, treatment or transportation, discuss emergency plans with your service provider. They may provide a list of backup providers.
Fifth, remember other personal needs. If you have glasses, make sure you’ve got a backup pair in emergency supplies. If you use a hearing aid, keep spare batteries.
If you use powered medical equipment, make sure you’ve got batteries and a backup plan. As the U.S. Department of Energy pointed out, after a disaster, you will not be highest priority of government and utilities. They’ll be getting power plants online and making sure medical facilities and first responders have the electricity they need.
That being said, utilities can put a higher priority on restoring power to your home if they know you have a medical power need.
It takes effort to prepare for emergencies when you have medical needs. It takes extra time to check dates on bottles; to make lists of prescription medication; to coordinate with caregivers and utilities; to rotate supplies and prescriptions. That doesn’t matter to LuBean. Since she must take her medication daily, keeping it in her emergency supplies is a “number one” priority.