ad banner

Prepping With Disabilities: A Guide For The Disabled and Caregivers

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: July 2, 2019
Prepping With Disabilities: A Guide For The Disabled and Caregivers

This site contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Full Disclosure Here.

There are plenty of people out there with disabilities. This can make it challenging to prep or be more prepared. I try to make sure to mention and include some things to help those that have problems with mobility, chronic illness, etc in my posts. I think prepping with disabilities deserves a full article and more.

For those that don’t already know from my other posts, my father is a Vietnam Veteran that saw heavy combat. A lot of his issues developed when he was older. He has diabetes and skin issues that have been attributed to Agent Orange exposure. These conditions have led to his loss of vision to the point he is legally blind and he has a leg that is amputated right below the knee and uses a prosthetic and walker.

He lives alone but we are right up the road and can be to him within 5 minutes. There are plenty of those that are disabled that are unfortunately largely on their own when it comes to most anything. An occasional home health worker is not a plan for having help on hand. All of his health issues have made me think a lot about the challenges of being prepared if you suffer from a chronic condition or are just elderly and not getting around as well as you used to.


On the other side of this is the caregiver. If you are reading this you may be the caregiver and be looking for ways to be caring and compassionate as well as helping the disabled loved one in your life be more prepared. For you, I have tried to include some insight using my experience of caring for older people. I am 35 years old which some see as a sign that I probably don’t know much about this. Well, I happened to be the youngest of my generation and as a result, I have parents and grandparents that are older. My grandmother was born in a log cabin with no birth certificate. My husband and I took care of her after my father was unable. She was in her 90s when she had to go to care. It was out of my hands at that point. I really wanted to keep her at home but other family and the doctors insisted that she go. I learned a lot from this about being sensitive to the needs of those that are in need of care. Let’s start off with some tips for approaching care in a compassionate manner.

No one wants to feel helpless and it can be very embarrassing for many that have always been independent.

I remember my grandmother saying repeatedly that “shame someone having to do this”. It seemed there was little I could do to stop this feeling. I told her that this is what people did for their kin, for their parents and grandparents. She had no reason to feel bad for me helping her. I told her it was the right thing to do and that she should never feel that way.

Since she had dementia what I said was not remembered and the cycle would start again. Even if someone is of sound mind, they can feel very bad about getting help. This is particularly true of people that are used to doing basically everything. My grandma came of age during the Great Depression. She was mopping her own floor until 90!

As a caregiver, you need to reiterate that you are doing this out of love and that is what people do!

If you are the person someone is trying to care for then try to understand that there is no shame. Everyone gets older if they are lucky and us fragile human beings all have our share of health woes and troubles. One day those taking care of you will need help too. Feel good in the knowledge that there are people that love and care for you. Even if they seem a little pushy at times try to exercise some patience since most of the time they are trying to look out for you the best way they can.

My Dad took care of me when my own mother would not. Taking care of him is the right choice no matter what or how hard it gets! This is me and him in 1983 in Forks, Washington.

Caregivers That Have Ill Intent Exist But Are Not As Common As Those That Care

While I think that the vast majority of caregivers really do have the best of intentions, there are some that do not. Elder abuse is a real thing and something to watch out for. There are those that definitely want to exploit those that are caring for someone. If you feel that you are being exploited there is help out there. No one deserves to be taken advantage of due to age or disability! Here is a link to a listing of elder abuse hotlines by state. You can also reach out to your local social services office or church.

Caregivers should be aware of strife within families

Someone bearing a grudge can cause a lot of trouble. On talking with some of the social workers in my area I learned that false calls are very common. All someone has to do that is irritated is pick up the phone and call. Social services have to look into it on some level.

It sure is a shame that people make false reports because it ties up resources that could be used actually helping those that need it.

It is unfortunate but sometimes families are not agreed on the best way to care for older or disabled persons and they lash out. If this happens to be calm and go the extra mile to provide info that is required. It actually takes a lot of evidence and extreme circumstances for the state to take over the care and management of someone entirely.

It can be very scary for an older or disabled person if they think that a lie might land them in a rest home or facility against their will. Luckily this is only done in cases where there is simply no way for them to have the care they need at home. Know your rights and get a good lawyer if needed. Some organizations will even help with legal advice for families in need.

Tips For General Preparedness

Now that we have covered some of the compassion and understanding, let’s move on to actually getting together gear and supplies to make it easier for a disabled person to get through a major situation until help arrives or the situation is totally resolved.


I know I go on and on about the importance of light in an emergency but it really is that important! Falls and stumbles can lead from living an independent lifestyle to having to live in a home where care is provided.  On the other hand, I have heard of those that are disabled laying in bed after a power outage or other event because they are afraid to move around without light. This can lead to issues like dehydration, not taking medications on time, and worse!

A good lantern/flashlight should be placed where it can be reached immediately in a situation. A nightstand is good for this. You may want to have two there in case you happen to use one and forget to put it back. If you are a caregiver you should sometimes check to make sure that a battery powered light is near all areas that your loved one frequents.  A light in the bathroom is essential! Put a touch light or anything that you can think of in this area to avoid falls and make sure that there is access to water and bathroom facilities during an emergency.

BDS Posts About Lights

The Best EDC Flashlights & What To Look For

The Best Hand Crank Flashlights

I know hand cranked can be problematic for certain types of disabilities, but some of these lights have several power methods.

Pre-installed battery back up lighting

There are plenty of buildings that have lights that come on automatically during an outage. I see no reason you could not create a system like this for yourself. This is a good idea for those that sometimes have to go away and want to be absolutely sure that decent lighting is available in the event of a situation.

Some smoke detectors have built-in escape lights that come on during an outage. Replacing a few pre-existing wired in detectors can be an economical option.


Easy to prepare foods are essential. Foods that can be eaten out of the box or that just require brief heating are ideal. I recommend a mixture of both so that everything is covered regardless of the situation.

I recommend Valley Food Storage. The quality is exceptional, the prices are as low or lower than a lot of foods at the store and eating out, and they offer options for those on restricted diets. It is really easy to find things that are gluten free, dairy free, etc. and the shelf life is 25 years! A bucket or two of their food goes a long way and at most, you need some water and a method to heat. In a major situation, tepid water could be used to rehydrate and you could eat without heating if necessary.

Water and Water Filter Bottle Or Pitcher

I recommend keeping some bottled water within reaching a distance of your bed or setting areas if disabled. Dehydration is super serious! A case of bottled water can make all the difference. A water filter bottle or pitcher is also recommended. I could see where the bottle may be easier for some to use than a pitcher and it can be carried in a bug out or 72-hour bag. For long-term emergencies, a water filter that has a reservoir bag that can be hung up and filled as needed is something to consider. Hand pumped filters are cumbersome and frustrating for even those that have no disabilities at all.

BDS Posts About Water

Top Big Berkey Water Filter Alternatives

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Survival Water Filters

A Review Of The Hydro Blu Go Flow 10L Water Gravity Bag With Versa Filter

We have a lot of other info about your water supply at this start page.

 LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle

amazon product


This is tricky in some ways but from what I can gather I think ideally you would have a 1-2 week pill dispenser filled with what is required and then make sure to refill it when you reach only 2 days layed out. This ensures a buffer time and that you have the medicine you need. Keeping it in the place where the most time is spent is advisable. You may even have a second dispenser in the bathroom. Of course, medications expire so you will need to make sure to rotate occasionally if you have a second spot to stash things.

There are dispensers that address those that have AM/PM medications too so things can stay well organized.

Type A List Of Contact Numbers in Large Print and Laminate Several Copies!

Place a copy near the door where rescue workers can find it. Also, put a copy of the fridge. I would glue it if it was me because then it is harder for someone to move or maybe put a copy in a frame or something by the door. If someone’s memory is slipping or showing signs of dementia you need to plan for the fact that things might be moved around haphazardly at times.

Keep food within reach of areas where a lot of time is spent.

Some rations that can be consumed with no prep are second to water in importance during a situation. Those with some storage on their wheelchair could stash some supplies in there.

Bathroom needs if trapped

There are portable toilets that can be placed by the bed. If you don’t want to look at a toilet all the time then you can hide it with a blanket or other cover. Men can get away with urinal bottles up to a point. They also make them with adaptors for women. This is better than nothing.

AWOKEN Unisex Potty Urinal

amazon product

Back up power and tanks for medical equipment

I am not familiar with medical equipment that takes power or tanks of oxygen but it makes sense to have back up.  Some people have small generators for long-term outages. Evaluate your needs or that of the person you are carrying for and come up with a plan that is reasonable for your situation.

BDS Posts On Back Up Power

Best Portable Solar Generators For Emergencies

Propane Versus Gas Generators

Check out our power supply start page for a lot of other links to helpful posts.

Have a bug out bag packed in case of evacuation.

A bag that has at least 72 hours worth of supplies and preferably a week is recommended.  The contents of the bag are of course going to vary based on the disability you are dealing with. If you are a caregiver, double check the bag to make sure it is up to date. Prescriptions can change for some people more often than others and they also expire so going over this aspect every 6 months or a year at minimum is best.

Choose a bag that makes sense based on abilities and consider transportation options.

There are so many types of bags out there that can be utilized. You don’t have to use a standard backpack. Messenger bags, fanny packs of sufficient size, etc, could be strapped to a wheelchair or walker. Strapping it on to a person or medical equipment also keeps it from falling. If you have trouble getting up or bending, securing your bag can help avoid some of that type of activity.

If you are elderly or disabled you may also want to have someone take a look through your bag to make sure you have not overlooked anything. Even those that have put together a lot of bags over the years can easily forget something. This is simply a good idea for anyone to do for their bug out bag regardless of age and ability. Some people have a tendency to overpack some things and not pack enough of real essentials. I always had a hard time not packing too heavy for trips of 2-7 days on the trail.

Check out these posts for some tips on packing different types of bags.

Best Pre-Made Bug Out Bags & DIY Options

Bug Out Versus Get Home Bags


I did a post on Alternative Bug Out Transportation a while back. There are a lot of options in that post and while I did not write it specifically for disabled preppers and caregivers, it is worth looking at so you can get started figuring what transportation would work for unique needs. There are a lot of people out there that have no car.

Disabled Children

Having a younger person that is disabled or has developmental conditions has its own challenges. There are a lot of people with Downs Syndrome that lead very rich and fulfilling lives. Sometimes they need some extra help in areas. As children, they are going to need more help than other children. They may be perfectly capable of carrying their own bag but have a tendency to wander off. I am just throwing scenarios out there but you see where I am going with this. You need to plan for special needs children very carefully.

Kids that have mobility issues or prosthetic limbs can do amazing things but it varies by the child. Generally speaking, very young kids are going to make getting from point A to point B, take longer regardless of their abilities.  Keep in mind that during an SHTF scenario some people are not going to be near as nice and understanding and that could have an effect on a disabled child. You are going to have to be more on guard for them and against those that may take advantage of them in any way. There are people out there that wouldn’t think twice about taking their supplies.

I have never had to take care of a disabled child myself. If you have or are currently then please share with us what you have done to consider their needs with prepping! I am hoping that those reading this post will tell their stories so everyone can learn.

Preparing For More Dire Circumstances and Leaving Someone Behind

I try to read as many comments as possible that readers make on posts. Between this and other articles on the myriad of prepping websites, I have read many times that some that are older or disabled that they intend on staying behind and not dragging anyone down with them. That sounds harsh but I definitely get the impression that there are plenty that feel that way.

It pains me to put a voice to the fact that there are still others that really could not make it for long during an extended emergency or SHTF situation. Those that have loved ones that require very special care grapple with this reality in their mind. There is only so much one can do to prepare. The best I can say is to prepare as much as possible but realize that there is only so much you can do or anticipate.

If you are the person that has said that you will be left and do the best you can, you might have a hard time getting your loved ones to understand your point of view. One reader told me that he had been clear about what his plan was. That he had supplies to stick it out awhile but the kids and grandkids were not to force him to go.

Regardless of how clear you are, it is probably going to be a lot harder than you think to get those that care about you to actually follow your wishes. There is no one size fits all solution to that as far as I can tell. If you have addressed this type of thing with your family and would like to share how you approached it, please let us know in the comments.

What tips do you have for prepping with a disability? What have you done to address the emotional side of dealing with the limitations you face or that you help a loved one with?

Aff | Emergency Survival Blanket

[DEAL] Emergency Survival Blanket

Pocket-size survival blanket could save a life - throw in your bag or car.

Get Cheap Security
Aff | Tactical Pen
[DEAL] Ultimate Concealed Weapon Stay Protected

14 Responses to “Prepping With Disabilities: A Guide For The Disabled and Caregivers”

  1. As a young blind person who lives alone, this article was not that helpful to me because it seems to focus on older people and those who live with caregivers. Many survival things seem self-explanatory, but your alternative transportation post is also not very helpful. I don’t know how to use a motorcycle or a moped. I don’t think that would work out. Now I take the buses, trains, paratransit, or Uber, but in a disaster situation, those things won’t work. I was living in Austin during the hurricane, and all of the buses and everything were cut off. The government was refusing to evacuate people who should have been evacuated although Austin wasn’t really affected that much. However, if it had been, I don’t know how I would have evacuated when the buses and everything were turned off. I have tried to find some other articles on this topic and they also aren’t helpful because they treat disabled people like children, and say things like that we would not have the capability to set up equipment, start a fire, or filter water and that is not true. The main things I am having trouble with our transportation and navigation. Linus probably isn’t that much of a factor, but I don’t have a good sense of direction. In my city, I use the address system to travel, And I also use the GPS a lot, but using the GPS will make my electronics run out of battery. They do have some tactile maps, but they don’t really work for me. Maybe they weren’t designed for people who were born blind. I don’t know, but I can’t read them very well. Not to mention the weight factor of carrying a lot of different tactile maps for a lot of different situations isn’t good. I wasn’t planning for the apocalypse or something crazy like that where I would have to hide out in the woods. That would be ridiculous. I had no survival experience and that wouldn’t work out. I don’t know how to hunt or fish, and before people say that blind people can’t do that, they can, but I just don’t know how. I was just thinking of something like a disaster where I’m trying to evacuate to an emergency shelter, where maybe the grocery stores aren’t open anymore, or I need to leave to get to resources or rescuers or something like that. If I did need to hunt or fish for a longer-term situation, I guess I would have to learn how to do it, but I think the best thing would be to find edible plants, go fishing, and set up traps. Apart from my blindness, I need strategies for someone who wants to do this for cheaply, and who doesn’t know about anything like this. I don’t go camping, and before you say just go camping and learn about it, I don’t like camping in that isn’t very realistic. I live in a city. I don’t know a lot about this survival stuff, so I would need strategies for someone who isn’t in shape enough, and who doesn’t know about these things. I could learn, but many groups would probably reject me because they believe that I would be a liability, so I have to be prepared to do it without them. I also wouldn’t want to be in a bad situation where I have to do everything they want and exchange for survival. But if I won’t be using a GPS and I won’t be reading a map, I would need some navigation options that would work. They have braille compasses, but I don’t know how much that would help. You can also navigate using the sun, but I’ve never done anything like that before where I need to walk 60 miles to get somewhere. I could physically do it although I would be slower than someone who is good at it and who hikes a lot, but I could physically do it if I got the navigation thing hammered down. I know for sure if it is something like a bomb or a nuclear attack, I want to get out of there. Sheltering in place is not a very good option, assuming you have an idea that it could happen and you can get out before it does because I don’t know of any type of a shelter, including an underground one, that could take a direct hit.I wouldn’t need any lighting at all though, so that would give me extra weight if there were other items I could use that other people wouldn’t need.

  2. I have 2 autistic grandsons one of whom also has mobility issues. There are a lot of extra things to consider when prepping with disabled children. Both boys are very picky about what they will eat and drink. “When they get hungry they will eat it” does not apply when you are dealing with autism so emergency supplies must contain familiar foods.
    Incontinent supplies are another need we prepare for as in an emergency laundry facilities may be lacking.
    Anxiety is a huge issue. Both boys tend to shut down and refuse to move and they are now too big to be carried. New situations are particularly stressful. We have a trailer if we need to bug out for any reason. The family uses it for vacations so it is a safe place for them.

    • Susanne,

      I only just stumbled onto this site, so I know this response is a long time past due.

      I have five sons. Of those, I have two children with autism (now 16 and 20). I’ve been trying to “stay prepared” since long before having children. So since their arrival, I’ve been making much needed adjustments over the years of their bags. My sons will have meltdowns over changes in routines, freeze when given too many options, and strip if the fabric texture is “wrong”. Helping them be prepared for the potential challenges has proven to be incredibly challenging in itself. Consistency and exposure are the two key factors which have worked best for us.

      Some examples for my boys with autism:
      1) Every day, the boys have to equip their “gear”. As the boys have gotten older, I’ve been able to add more to their gear. Started with just a flashlight necklace. Few years later, I added a keychain (with only a small water-resistant USB drive to hold important medical records and information). Around 14 years old, we added a wallet (with laminated emergency contact list). When the winter storms knocked out the power to nearly the entire state, the boys quickly turned on their flashlights and then went back to whatever they were doing.
      2) Each month, we spend a weekend camping outside. We started just in the backyard when they were toddlers and have since moved to hiking and camping. Trust me, we still have some rough camping trips. But each time we do it, things get better.
      3) Each month, we do a “drill”. I randomly change the time of day (even middle of the night…which makes for a brutal next day). Being able to slowly add responsibilities plus the benefit of repetition has made our drills much less chaotic over time. Be patient, it took us nearly a year to get everyone out of the house without a meltdown. Many years later, it’s part of their routine.
      4) Each quarter, I rotate one of their favorite small blankets or stuffed animals (still doing this even as they will soon both be “adults”). This helps them retain the familiarity with the item while letting me keep it packed for quicker emergency exits. Squeeze toys (no noise such as stress balls) also help them (and everyone else) with stress relief.
      5) Make sure to have ear and nose plugs (and familiarize them with being okay using them) to help with too much sound and smell stimulation.
      6) We also keep headsets identical to the ones they were raised to use in their bags with backup iPods downloaded with their current playlists (updated quarterly).
      7) With limited resources, we had to do things slowly when it came to food storage. Short term, it wasn’t too much trouble to slowly stock up things they’d be willing to eat. Long term storage was much more difficult. A lot of companies offer a sample or variety pack. We tested so many different products to find which would work for our boys’ picky eating habits. We tested dehydrating different foods we knew they liked…only to find they then wouldn’t eat it due to the texture. Or buying freeze-dried foods (much lighter to carry). After finding something they’d actually eat, we have to keep it in a monthly rotation to make sure they were still comfortable and keep them familiar with the food. Just keep trying. They might say no to dehydrated bananas but yes to dehydrated mangos (made more mind boggling since I can’t get either of them to eat mango anything).

      It’s a slow, never-ending process, but helping them be prepared is possible! Hope this helps!

      God bless!

  3. The most realist view of being disabled in a SHTF time is in the book ‘One Second After’. My wife is in a nursing home and I all ready know how poorly these places are set up to handle major emergencies (look at New Orleans). As hard as it seems sometimes it may be required to do a triage. because you may not be able to save everyone

  4. What a topic. Being both blind, my wife and I have spent a goodish deal of time these last few years ruminating on it–trying to file the edges of these two pieces (disability and survival) and make them fit together somehow. We always come away with little more than a pile of shavings and lacerated fingers for our efforts. I get the sentiments of those who “don’t want to be a burden.” I characterize it as a twist on Martin Seligman’s ‘Learned Helplessness’–I’ll call it ‘hopeless ambivalence.’ At least this is how I view it when we are talking about long-term SHTF/TEOTWAWKI scenarios. Short-term partial breakdowns are another matter.

    Ever notice how few disabled characters there are in the survivalist fiction? I’ve encountered three: one blind girl, one man with ambulatory issues and two in-story amputees: one of whom died. The rest seem all to be lumped in with the mass die-off when life sustaining medicine and equipment are no longer available.

    Elderly folks are more well-represented, but these are all able bodied folks–as far as I can remember. With the exception of diabetes, most complaints of the elderly (arthritis, fatigue, hering loss, vision problems &c.) don’t even make an appearance. Few of them are major characters; they seem to be place holders, keepers of the flame of old ways and old knowledge nearly forgotten and now desperately needed.

    Hopeless ambivalence. Hopeless because the complications of preparing as a disabled person are seemingly insuperable. Ambivalence because hanging on to as much as you can for as long as you can is insuperable.

    Sorry for the wondering. Editing in a mesage form is a pain.


  5. If the Stuff hit the Fan…Two vehicles stuffed and topped is probably what we will use if we can’t hunker down at home. Too much to haul to survive without both for 6-one with a wheelchair.

  6. Thank you for writing this. It’s obvious you know your stuff. May I recommend a small book called “Elder Rage”. It helped prepare my wife an I to care for our parents as they ‘lost it’. We indirectly took care of her mom until she passed, my mom and her father simultaneously for a month in our home. I would not wish that scene upon anybody! All three ended up in an assisted living facility when their care needs became beyond what we could do ourselves. It wasn’t a pretty scene. It got to a point where my wife and I were becoming short and snippy to each other and short tempered to our parents. I can just imagine it being 10 times worst during a SHTF situation.

  7. Samantha, great article. Really thoughtful. As a disabled person with no caregiver I have put a lot of thought into this subject. If bugging out is necessary and if it’s not a simple evacuation that can be done by car, I plan to cover ONE mile per day by foot, with frequent stops. I no longer tell my close friends of that plan because they think such slow travel is certain death. However I believe that by accurately assessing my abilities in advance, I do have a chance for survival. I have chosen a remote bugout location in a large forested area. My familiarity with the area is such that I plan to walk at night and hide during the day. My bug out bag is very heavy. That is based on assessment of my skills. I need a lot of water as well as food that can be eaten cold just to reach the depths of this particular forest. Once there I need time to build a bushcraft type camouflaged shelter. And time to desalinate water, forage, and set traps. During this adjustment period I am planning for food that can be made with boiling water or just soaking. Such as couscous and oatmeal. With nuts for fat and protein. As I progress I expect to cook very simple things such as quinoa and red lentils in a Dakota fire pit. The idea is to carry enough food for a planned transition to foraging, trapping and fishing. And to retain enough dry food for supplementation during winter. This is a heavy backpack. It’s really called an INCH bag. Which stands for I’m Never Coming Home. As Gaye Levy knows, my mindset about disaster is based on economic meltdown, civil disobedience, and anarchy which will be brought under control by totalitarianism, if at all. Hiding is the best course of action. Most other disasters can be weathered by sheltering in place. In addition to the above plans, I need supply and tool caches in the forest. One last thing. There will be others in the forest. Most of them will be lifelong hunters. I expect to be hiding most of the time but if there are encounters they should be peaceful as long as there are deer for the hunters. There will be some inexperienced unprepared lost and dangerous civilians. I doubt they will venture too deeply. They will flounder around until they run out of ammo or the hunters take them out. Breathing a sigh of relief. I’m sorry for going on and on. However putting my thoughts on paper within the BDS community has always helped me to focus and move on to the next step in my plans. Thank you.

    • “hunters. There will be some inexperienced unprepared lost and dangerous civilians. I doubt they will venture too deeply. They will flounder around until they run out of ammo or the hunters take them out.”

      Or they burn the forest down with their lack of campfire discipline.

  8. Thank you so much. There was many things I did not think of. Sometimes you just get so wrapped up in the day to day of taking care of someone. Thank you again.

  9. Thanks for the article and info. Both my wife and I have limited mobility issues. We both have BOBs packed in the house and a BOB and GHB in the car just in case. It scares me to no end being older with disabilities. We know our chances for long term survival in a total grid down situation are slim, but that’s okay. We’ll give it our best shot and manage as best we can. For bugging in we have about 90 days supplies built up. I’m working on more but being on a limited income makes it tough. Still we’re better off than many Americans when it comes to preparedness issues. Unfortunately it’s just the wife and I as we have no outside support we can depend on. We have a BOL we will use if needed. Again, good article, thanks. There’s more of us who are disabled prepares than you know exist especially as us boomers age.

  10. Great article, Samantha. I would like to suggest, however, that you add amusements to the list of necessary supplies. Something as simple as a deck of cards can help take one’s mind off of SHTF woes and most elderly and disabled folks already know how to play solitaire. Coloring books and pencils, paperback books, and reading glasses are other items appropriate to keep close by.

    • I agree, need to get simple games to pass time….to help ALL stay semi-sane. Cards…travel games…

Leave a Reply