Advice for Less Able/Disabled Preppers, by M.D.M.

I was born and raised on a farm, lived military and worked all my life, so I am accustomed to hard work and understand the need for a strong physical body. After years of working 10-12 hours a day, I decided to go back to college at nights to get a degree in pastoral studies, so I could keep busy during my ‘retirement’ years. In August, 2005 my life changed with a bad accident, now, disabled and in a wheelchair, my life is upside down and for me it was TEOTWAWKI.  I have always been a prepper and I’m not really sure why, a habit passed down in our family since the great depression. I never ever realized the importance of it until that day.  I am now a firm believer that all people need to be aware of what can happen and to be more prepared for all possibilities. Suddenly I couldn’t work, was facing multiple surgeries and the whole world looked different. Let me tell you now, everything we’ve been told about assistance if you ever become disabled is……..not the truth. For 14 months afterward I had no income and nothing but medical bills and no insurance (COBRA insurance was more expensive than the mortgage.) My choices became clear, sell everything I own (even though I could not prepare it for sale) and move into a nursing home, or get help at home. Luckily, my daughter and grandson moved in with me. We lived off our savings and food storage. I taught my family to forage, seems like in all our years of plenty, I have forgotten to teach my children and grandchildren the skills my grandmother taught me as a child. We ate our salads from the front yard and our garden; the food storage carried us through along with thoughtful friends who would at first bring in meals or a cake or pie. We saved the home, barely.

 Everyone needs to think now about what you would do if someone became disabled during SHTF and how you would care for them.  We now consider ourselves lucky we have already prepared for health related issues. Most preppers I know are my age, Viet Nam era people, we older preppers need to cover all our contingencies, as age itself has its own problems. Have you thought about how you might transport, lift, mobilize and care for a handicap or elderly loved one? Think about it now, even if no one in the family is currently handicap, you never know when something will happen. Anyone who is an active, healthy and disciplined person today can be disabled tomorrow. It could hit you like it did me, literally out of the blue, on a Friday night.

Initially I did not think about our prepping supplies or bug-out locations, only about making it from one day to the next. Now in a wheelchair, the house had to be modified, adaptive aids purchased, a ramp had to be built, our home had to be rearranged, lifts had to be installed, doorways widened and a disability van purchased. These things took extra money I did not have. Modifying our prepper supplies had to wait, and modifying our bug-out locations was way in the future. But now, years down the road, some of what I learned is that no amount of money saved is enough, unless you are in the 1%. One year of food storage is not enough, it can be stretched and stretched, but when it is gone it is most definitely gone. People won’t look at you the same, and that is fine, you don’t see them in the same light either. Some people who professed to be your best friend won’t be found anywhere. And most importantly, you will reevaluate your life and everything in it, including your faith. In times like these, you need to go ahead and pull out the good china and crystal to use every day, “enjoy it now” became my theme. I wish I had done that earlier in life. 

Many survivalists believe in the ‘survival of the fittest’ theory, and would be the first to leave the disabled and handicapped behind. There is something to be said for that, for if I become a burden to my family, as hard as it would be, I know that I would have to stay behind and let them go on. That would be very, very hard for me and for them, but we have discussed it to great lengths and all understand that it could be inevitable. Once said and understood by all, next step is to plan around my disabilities and see how to incorporate these new needs. I realized physically, I need the same thing as everyone else; food, water, shelter, self-defense, a potty, a place to sleep and something to read (my Bible), only my needs are now met in a different way.  We realized we don’t need two sets of preps; my preparations can work for the whole family, while their preparations won’t work for me. Sometimes I feel I am a burden to the family when they remind me that I bring wisdom, humor and hugs to the table. I know ways to defend my family, ways to gather and grow food, how to sew and make anything we need without a pattern and how to wiggle thru life to thrive, not just to survive. Everyone who has life can contribute something, even if it is just the gift of their presences, never, never discount a handicap or disabled person as less than human.

It goes without saying, if you have an electric wheelchair, always keep it charged. I have my charging unit in a backpack over the back handles of my wheelchair, so it is always with me. Have an alternate way to charge it, like a small generator or independent power supply system. My wheelchair has hidden pockets where I can keep pepper spray/mace or a weapon. Many handicap persons are not capable of handling or carrying a handgun or weapon. Also, not all physically handicapped persons are mentally handicapped. I have been surprised since my accident how many people have spoken to me in baby talk or less expecting that since I am in a wheelchair, I’m probably mentally challenged also. I want to hit those people, not only for thinking something so stupid, but for every mentally challenged person out there that has had to put up with stupid people like that. People also tend to find handicap people as vulnerable, and treat us that way. Thank goodness I already had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. My attitude is ‘don’t mess with me, in or out of my wheelchair’ It’s important not to look vulnerable, even the home. When someone looks at your home and sees a ramp, automatically you become a target. Our handicap ramp is to the side and landscaped in a way it doesn’t show. Disability license plates give you away also, so it is smarter to use a removable “hang ticket” [attached to the rearview mirror] instead of a plate.

Many modifications can be made at home, for instance; my daughter created an easy chair for me by adding heavy duty caster rollers to the legs of a plastic outdoor yard chair, it is really handy and easy for us all. My wheelchair can also be used to transport barrels of water, cast iron cookpots, sandbags and other heavy items. Transfer boards can be made from any heavy plastic or smooth wooden boards and used to move any heavy object from one place to another.  Sock pullers can be made from old bleach bottles and a bit of rope by cutting off the top and bottom and slitting the side then attaching long rope handles. The sock is then placed on top of the bottle and pulled onto the foot.

We realized we needed to make minor changes to our accessory bug-out sites also. We have four bug-out locations, one in each direction. Some are in conjunction with other family members, some are only for us, depending on which way we have to travel (hopefully we would not have to travel and could hunker down here at home).  Many of the little things I don’t need everyday any more, we have moved to our ‘Bugoutmobile’ to ease the burden. I suggest people consider adding bed wedges, adult diapers, transfer boards, reachers, portable handicap potties, rollator or walker, small portable lift system, and transfer chairs to their preps. If you have these accessories you will be able to care for almost anyone in any situation.

But the most important thing is to nurture close family relationships, as nothing can be more important to your survival. Do whatever it takes to keep your family first, to keep you all together and to learn to live with each other in a confined area. Everyone has to sacrifice; everyone has to give, to live in a happy community atmosphere. You have to diligently work to achieve family accord; it doesn’t come automatically just because you are all family. Practicing now dealing with your family in a confined space will let your family learn what traits they need to work on, because when SHTF you may have wished you had already learned this lesson and already worked out these issues. Also, living in a confined space, you may reconsider how many beans you have in storage.

 I’d like to share some things that may help someone else, things I learned the hard way. There is a difference between early, regular and disabled pension. If you must leave work due to an accident to take your pension, take a disability pension. There is a difference between transfer chair, wheelchairs and electric chairs. Transfer chairs are lightweight and inexpensive for temporary use (or prepping), wheel chairs are manual heavy duty, and electric chairs are wheelchairs that are battery pack for people who do not have full use their arms. Some auto manufactures will give you a discount for ordering a new disability fully-equipped van (some changes to policy have been made since the recession of 2008). The National Park system issues ‘Access Passes’ granting free access to a permanently disabled person good for the rest of their lifetime. Look for assistance from Community Action groups (like Agency on Aging) not from where you would expect. Adaptive aids make all the difference in the world. Items like reachers, transfer boards, leg lifters, bed wedges, bathroom and dressing aids, wheeled carts and baskets, sock pullers and gel pads are all helpful for older preppers.  Prepping is for hard times, and in hard times you still need to make life as simple as possible. All older preppers as well as those with a disabled family member should consider looking carefully at your in-home and bug-out supplies.    

There were cocky young men in my office that stood over me and defiantly said they would never be disabled, it would never happen to them, they are strong and would overcome any physical injury. Well, I probably felt the same way when I was around 17 years old. But I have learned over the years that nothing is impossible, everything isn’t what it professes to be, you can count your true friends on one hand and taking care of your family is a virtue, whatever their condition.  So believe in miracles and prepare for anything, even disability.

If you would like to add these two sites to your bookmarks, it took me forever to find these places for things I needed: and