Survival and Special Needs Loved Ones, by Mrs. H.

Although most survival enthusiasts are “of sound mind and body,” many of us have friends or family members who aren’t quite so lucky. Being the parent or friend of someone with special needs in everyday life is often stressful enough, let alone when facing TEOTWAWKI. Making preparations for their survival and long term care will help ease some of that worry in the event of a real emergency or extended crisis.

Obviously, the same basic needs should be met for everyone: food, shelter, water, heat, protection, and health care. With a special needs person thrown into the mix, though, your preparations should include extra measures, such as sanity savers, alternative medicines, extra safety measures, and so on. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Sanity Savers

Ever try to get an autistic child to calm down in the middle of an exciting event? It isn’t easy! As you can imagine, a survival situation may seem like a big game to many autists. Or, worse, they may balk and freeze at the worst possible moment. Either way, you need to learn ways to get your autistic child or friend to respond appropriately to danger. At the least, you need to get them to allow you to take the lead on cue.

Behavioral therapists can help you train an autistic individual to follow basic requests. The minimum they should know is when to follow you, when to stay down, when to be quiet, and when to run. If the therapist asks why you’re interested in teaching these commands, tell them you’re planning a trip to Disneyland.

Many special needs people will not eat unfamiliar foods, so keeping a stockpile of familiar meals and snacks will keep them from starving. Alternatively, you can introduce survival foods to their regular diet, a little at a time, perhaps one new food per week. If you make it seem like a treat to eat MREs, chances are good that they’ll believe you.

Finally, include practical play in your stockpile. Simple games, drawing paper, coloring books, and craft supplies will help keep special needs people busy while you attend to other matters.

Safety Measures

Many special needs people wander, whether they are autistic children to elderly adults with dementia. While electronic monitoring is fine in normal situations, your best bet in a post-SHTF situation is a well trained dog.

If you don’t already have a service dog, start looking for one. Border collie and lab mixes make great service dogs; they’re highly intelligent, loyal, easily trained, and just big enough to look scary if they need to. They also have a natural herding instinct, which makes training to prevent wandering a lot easier.

Dog-training services are available throughout the country, and part of the dog’s training may be covered by grants or volunteer organizations. If you’d prefer to train your own service dog, there are literally hundreds of books on the subject, as well as online courses. Designing your own training regimen will allow you to customize your dog’s responses to common commands, hand signals, and sounds. For instance, you can scream “SIT!” at my dogs all day, and they’ll ignore you, but the second you say “Sit” and lift two fingers, then their tail is instantly on the floor. Teaching the dog to “fetch” people as well as objects will save countless hours searching for everything from your kid to your car keys, as well.

Other safety measures include glow sticks (attach to their bug-out bag so you can see where they are), leashes, simple alarms such as trip wires with small bells to alert you to when they leave or enter an area they aren’t supposed to go, floatation devices, and possibly restraints, if all else fails. Restraints should only be used as a last resort, to prevent the individual from harming themselves or others, and should be promptly removed when they have calmed down. If you feel that using restraints is inhumane, then you don’t have to use them. But you may wish you’d kept some handy if you find yourself with a 12 foot deep rushing wall of floodwater running down the side of your retreat and a screaming, hitting, biting child who can’t understand why they shouldn’t go play in the water.

Alternative Medicines

If your loved one must take a prescription to stay stable enough to function, you need to find some effective alternatives to those drugs. Prescription drugs can be stockpiled, and veterinary medications can replace some “people” drugs, but those may not always be available. Learn about and stock up on alternative medications as a backup to your backup plan.

Some alternative medications that everyone should stockpile anyway include garlic, chamomile, horehound, cloud mushroom, aloe, witch hazel, and boneset weed. Learn to grow and harvest medicinal herbs and plants, their proper uses, signs of overdose, and counteracting agents, if available. If you have a retreat, consider planting a medicinal garden in addition to your regular garden crops, or at least do a bit of seed bombing in the local woods.

“Lost Causes”

I prefer to think that there are no people who aren’t worth trying to save, and that those who can’t help themselves deserve to be helped. Everyone has a value, whether it’s a Down’s Syndrome kid who happens to have a strong back and a good humored outlook, or a doddering old neighbor who remembers how to make rope by hand but can’t tie his own shoes anymore. According to some people, that makes me a sucker, and might get me killed. I’m okay with that. If I die in the attempt to save another human being’s life, that’s the best death I could hope for anyway.

There are, unfortunately, some special needs people who simply cannot be saved in a SHTF situation. As heartbreaking as it may be to accept that, it’s best if you prepare yourself for this possibility beforehand. You may be able to manage their condition for a short while and keep them comfortable, but if your loved one isn’t ambulatory, can’t swallow or eat normal food, or absolutely cannot be controlled without constant drugging and restraints, you may be forced to make a very difficult decision. Your personal beliefs, morals, and individual circumstances should guide your decisions, but not your emotions. Unless you are very honest with yourself, and admit that there is a lot of resentment that goes along with caring for a special needs family member, you may make a decision that you will regret for the rest of your life. Admit to your resentments, and put them aside.

Also, be aware of the fact that many special needs people are more aware of their situation than you might think. Elderly people with dementia have moments of clarity and astounding insight, and may decide to take their own lives to save resources or spare themselves the indignity of having to rely entirely upon others for their care. The same type of behavior can be seen in people with several different mental and developmental issues.

While suicide is a risk for even “normal” people during a crisis, special needs people are at even higher risk. Watch for signs of withdrawal, depression, and hopelessness, and try to counteract those symptoms with gentle reminders that they were important enough for you to save. Keep a close watch on elderly people, who are more likely to attempt suicide than a developmentally disabled person.

Finally, consider the impact of the disabled or ill person on the rest of the group. If you absolutely cannot abandon your loved one for the sake of the group’s survival, that’s fine; but be prepared to take your loved one to another location as soon as possible, or someone else may harm them out of sheer desperation. As much as we like to think that won’t happen to us, it’s a very real possibility in crisis situations-the weakest members of any group often end up outcast, injured, or dead.

Even though many survival groups are made up of close friends and relatives, eventually, someone will bring up “useless eaters” in regards to your loved one. Expect it, and don’t get angry-it’s human nature. Being prepared to leave the group and take your loved ones with you is always a good idea. If you suspect that your group may turn on your disabled family member, have a backup plan in place in case you need to leave and establish your own retreat elsewhere. You may be able to re-join your group at a later time, or at least keep relations friendly between everyone. Simply showing that you are willing to sacrifice your own safety and comfort for the sake of your loved one and your group will often turn the situation in your favor, though. Whether in a crisis situation or not, no one likes to feel like a heel, and everyone likes to think that if they find themselves ill, injured, or incapacitated, someone else will be willing to stand up for them and keep them safe, too.