Bugging Out With Limited Mobility: Elderly or Disabled

bugging out with elderly

It’s fairly easy to find advice for bugging out with ‘people in good health,’ but what if you, or someone you love, are not in reasonable health? How can you ensure all your family members – not just the healthy ones – are prepared to bug out?

This concern was recently raised by Kimberly, a reader of this site, who emailed me asking how she and her husband could adapt their bug out plan as they age to ensure their deteriorating health doesn’t limit their evacuation options.

Kimberly’s already on the right track – considering potential problems before they happen is fundamental to preparedness. The best tools against survival challenges are knowledge and proper planning. Thinking about plausible future scenarios and how they could potentially impact her bug out plan puts Kimberly ahead of the game.

Let’s take her the rest of the way by examining ways we can modify our bug out plan to accommodate someone with limited mobility, whether they are elderly or disabled.

Keep in mind that this post can apply to any less-abled person in your crew, not strictly people with age-related mobility issues. The following suggestions can be used to accommodate a disaster plan for an elderly relative, an injured or sick person, an infant, or an otherwise disabled person.

bugging out with old people

Let’s look at two possible scenarios:

  1. Bugging Out With Limited Mobility Family Members
  2. Making Your Own Plan If You Have Limited Mobility

Bugging Out With Limited Mobility Family Members

The first step is to realistically evaluate their ability to move over long distances.

Make sure you’re aware of exactly how much movement they’re capable of – can they walk for a full day, half a day, two hours, or less? Some people, specifically infants and people in wheelchairs, will need your help to be mobile, while others could improve their speed with the help of aids such as walking sticks.

If current limitations could be overcome through improved fitness or lifestyle changes (e.g. better eating, quitting smoking), encourage your family member to start making those changes now.

bugging out with elderly

Based on the results of your assessment, the next step is to choose the best option for your situation:

1. For people with highly limited or no mobility: Shelter in place (bug in instead of bugging out)

Your first consideration will be where to shelter – will you stay in the person’s home or move them to another location?

Wherever you choose, make sure you consider the following:

  • If you will be assisting them, consider using their home as your bug out location
  • Write a list of all the items you will need in case of emergency (e.g. food, dry goods, tools, water) and make sure there are adequate stockpiles at your shelter location
  • Thoroughly assess the location for possible threats – is it in a flood plain, tornado corridor, or earthquake fault zone? Understanding the type of emergency situations you could potentially be facing will help you better prepare.
  • If you don’t live with the person or may be out of the house when disaster strikes, consider what obstacles may interfere with your ability to reach the shelter – are there roads between you and them that may be blocked, impassible, or clogged with traffic?
  • Ensure the location can accommodate everyone in your bug out team with sleeping areas and sufficient stores of food, water, and hygiene items.

See also: The Ultimate Guide to Bugging In

2. For people with a medium level of mobility: Shelter in place or limit your bug out

Even if you are planning to bug out with a person of moderate mobility abilities, the best option may still be to shelter in place. If you live in an area with rough terrain or frequent bad weather, consider sheltering in place and follow the guidelines above.

Limited bug out

If you believe there’s a reasonable expectation that your limited mobility member will be able to walk for half a day or more, you can plan a limited bug out that will accommodate their needs.

If it’s possible to use a car to cover some ground, plan to drive as far as possible and walk from there. When incorporating a car into your survival plan, be sure to consider the following:

  • Make sure you have the right vehicle to bug out in as well as a specific vehicular bug out kit packed in addition to your personal backpacks
  • Include alternative locations in your bug out plan in the event you can’t get to your car or travel in the direction you had originally planned

Packing for a limited mobility person can be challenging as they may only be able to carry a light BOB, or more realistically, none at all. If you’ll be traveling with a group, distribute gear needed for your limited mobility member amongst other members so as not to burden one person, maximizing your group’s ability to travel.

Ensure you pack items that will make camp as comfortable as possible for them.  The more comfortable the person is, the better able they will be to recover and travel further the next day. Consider packing a larger bed roll than you would typically bring or perhaps a lightweight folding stool or backpacking hammock for rest breaks.

bug out route

For people with fair mobility: Bug out with some adjustments

A person with fair mobility should be able to travel a decent distance, albeit at a slower pace or with more frequent rest stops than a healthier person.  However, consideration should still be made for easing the impact of hard travel.

A bug out vehicle would still be great in this scenario if that option is available to you. If not, and your group must carry their gear, be sure to limit the amount carried by someone with only fair mobility to ensure the burden won’t impact their ability to travel.

While it is always important to be supportive and focus on the abilities – not disabilities – of your bug out team, try and keep expectations realistic.

People, especially those with little backpacking or survival experience, can sometimes become overly enthusiastic of their own abilities.  It may be a long journey and everyone will need to keep their strength up.

Despite the confidence some of your members may have in their endurance abilities, make sure to use your best judgement and plan to enforce periodic breaks if need be.

Making Your Own Plan If You Have Limited Mobility

Now let’s take a look at the opposite scenario: you are now the individual with the physical limitation that a bug out plan must be accommodated to.

If you have family members or friends to rely on, share the tips above with them to ensure you’re all prepared should you need to bug out. However, if you don’t have the good fortune of having someone close by you can depend on, you will need to build your own disaster plan to accommodate your needs.

Your first step in developing a functional plan is to perform a realistic assessment of your own abilities. If you are on your own or bugging out with another person of limited mobility, the best option will most often be to shelter in place, also known as bugging in.

The following are ways you can prepare your home or chosen shelter to accommodate your physical limitations in case of disaster:

  • Ensure your home is adequately stocked with supplies you will need in case of emergency such as food, water, tools, medications, etc.
  • Secure a means to communicate with the outside world should cell phones and landlines become unusable, such as a HAM radio
  • Learn basic survival skills and practice them as much as possible to maximize your odds of thriving without support
  • Do whatever you can to increase your ability to be self-sufficient, such as growing a garden or learning new skills
  • If possible, dig a well to ensure access to a reliable water supply (keep in mind you will need a manual pump or electric backup for this option)
  • Bugging out in a vehicle should be considered only as a last resort; if your car fails and your physical limitations prevent you from traveling by foot, you could be stranded without help
  • If you are considering bugging out in a vehicle, make sure you have a vehicle BOB packed and anything you may need to help you travel by foot once you reach your destination (cane, wheelchair, walker, crutches, etc.)

See also: The Ultimate Guide to Bugging In

Conclusion

The best offence is always a strong defence; using these tips to modify your bug out plan to accommodate for current or future limitations will make you that much more prepared when disaster strikes.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this article was inspired by a real-life problem faced by one of our readers. If you have any questions keeping you up at night about survival, preparedness planning, survival skills, or the best gear to choose, please drop me a line at info@thebugoutbagguide.com. You never know, it just might save your life!

Your Thoughts?

Have you been planning on supporting a limited mobility person in your bug out plan?  Are you planning to overcome any limitations you have yourself?

Let us know how in the Comments Section below, thanks!

24 comments on “Bugging Out With Limited Mobility: Elderly or Disabled

  1. Thank you, Chris, for the excellent article. I noted several areas in which we can make some very practical improvements to our plan.

    I think it would be well to note, also, that everyone should have an alternate plan. Almost all of us have had times when an illness or injury would have interfered with our ability to implement our preferred plan.

    We can achieve greater peace of mind if we are prepared for multiple possibilities by having an easily adaptable plan.

  2. This is a great article. I wish more people would have discussions and articles about this topic. I myself am limited in mobility and unless my home is in imminent danger of being destroyed, or the area is simply unsafe for habitation, my plan is to bug in. I do have a secondary plan in place if abandoning ship is my only resort, though. Again, thanks for covering this topic.

  3. I am 66, live alone in a small apartment and plan to bug in if at all possible. I have a bit of arthritis and don’t have a car anymore so bugging out is rather difficult. I do have my preps in order and hope I can take care of myself as best as possible for as long as possible.
    thanks for all the great info.

  4. Great article. It gives me a starting point to work with. I don’t have a family member with disability/mobility issues, but I have 3 (soon to be 4) young children. Moving on foot with their needs and limitations are very similar.

    One thing to consider…people with disabilities or limited mobility, especially those who are prepared but alone may find themselves the target of less prepared but more mobile and unethical people. It may be prudent to consider arming oneself to protect life and property.

  5. There are so many types of disabilities out there and I happen to have a few of them..that being said, the one that slows me down the most is because their the biggest factor to life.. is my lungs!! I have bad lungs and am on oxygen full time and get short of breath very easily. I would bug in myself I think.. but I have the strong notion of goin far north or out west to vacate the general area especially if it’s martial law or something to that effect. I don’t know what I will do because my machine requires hydro and my tanks will only last so long.. it’s a bad situation for anyone needing life support aids. You can only prep so much too on a disability budget!! Portable solar panels and generators are a good investment, but not inexpensive.. I think this type of disability is forgotton or not thought about much as I’ve yet to see or be advised of any info or ideas to solve my dilemma. It’s not a matter of a wheel chair or physical help it’s breathing!! Forever optimistic.. but feeling sorta screwed!!

      1. Gina, my mom has the same disability that you have. I would have hoped that Chris might have some advice, but I guess not. I guess we will be bugging in, which has benefits as well as challenges. Good luck to you Gina!!

        Kimberly

    1. My Dad had the same issue before he died. What we did was to get one of the portable condensers (einogen sp? ) and a cheap solar set up and battery from harbor freight. That allowed it to be charged on 12v. Then as money allowed added another panel array that would allow it to run his home concentrator. We also eventually added a small cheap generator that would power just that by its self but would typically be used to top off the deep cycle batter of the solar bank. Make sure you have enough batteries in the bank to run it 24 hrs just on them alone (1-2 worked for him) keep in mind a lot of medical devises require a full sign wave inverter to function. Or the portable car charger adapter will let it function off of a square wave inverter, but always check your specific devise.

  6. The problem I see is with the medical needs. Some need catheters, or other items that must be purchased by script. so having extra medications and medical goods can be pretty complicated when the doctor has to OK things like that month to month.

    1. It’s often the insurance company, or Medicare, not the physician, who determines how much you get. It’s worth asking for an extra script “just in case”. Figure out how much the extra supplies cost, and save up to cover it, filling it when you have enough. With an insurance company, it might be worth pointing out FEMA’s two week supply guideline and asking if they’ll cover it. We’ve done both those things. The other is looking elsewhere-we got my husband’s exact leg brace on Amazon for $30; the medical supply wanted $150.

    2. Ask the doctor to make prescriptions for 3 month increments FOR disaster preparedness. I shared with him what my pharmacist said in that it would be near impossible to fill prescriptions reasonably. The doctor found the request reasonable and made all my prescriptions for 90 days and insurance covered it. Hope that helps.

  7. As someone with limited eyesight I find carrying a small telescope to read distant signs invaluable for walking with weak legs. Less wrong turns means less walking.

  8. I am someone who has both limitted mobility and no way of evacuation. I don’t have a car. My plan is to bug in my top floor apartment but I don’t have a deck.
    Is it possible to grow food indoors?
    How can I secure the floor for my safety?
    Because I rely on s.s.i. my income is severly restricted so I need to make what I need as much as possible. Also I rent so construction isn’t viable. *Sigh*

    1. Hi Vicky,
      Given your situation, bugging in sounds sensible. It would be hard to grow enough food in an apartment without building an aquaponics system, which takes up a decent amount of space. Maybe consider fod storage options like cans and buckets of dried beans/rice?

      Chris

  9. I have been in a wheelchair, gimp sticks, and /or a cane for over 30 years. I can walk a block or 2 without a cane, but long term is a problem. I imagine I could get a few miles with my “gimp sticks” (Canadian canes -forearm canes) anyone of you that may need stability help. I would recommend these. They do not go under the armpit, they have a plastic holder to go around your forearm and they are much more stabile, taking some of the support from your wrists using 1 or 2. There are others that wrap part way around, but provide more support.
    If you are not steady, there are a few types that are a tripod or 4 close together that stable the cane or crutch.
    If I knew I had to bug out, I would make a “Mormon cart” using light framework, 2 bicycle wheels and some kind of fold down leg to stablize so you can lean , sit, or lie down in it. it would beat a shopping cart.
    Of course, you are not up to hiking 30 mi a day, but this could get you across town and you could hide behind something to camp urbanly. Some plan is better than no plan.

    I would suggest trying to find an old bashed up baja bug if you can (cheap). Some areas have these available, others think they are classics. If it has been rolled, cut the top off, put a rollbar and at least a tarp top. A little work to the inside can be done so a single person could sleep in it. You can mount jerry can racks outside and a solid luggage rack incorporated to the outside rollbar,siderails and/or bumpers. Cheap tires, regular fuel, larger gas tank+jerry cans, a well thought out bug out kit and you are good for a while

    1. Hi Paul,
      Thank you so much for all the info and suggestions you provided. You have obviously put a lot of thought into your survival plan and I think you have a lot of great ideas.

      I had never heard of a Mormon Cart before, that is an interesting idea and would be cheap to make.

      Thanks again and good luck prepping.

      Chris

  10. I was referring to an upgraded of the original design of the Mormon Handcart. These were state of the art 150+ years ago, but do not have to be as large(think old fashioned vegatable cart from NYC). A cart at least 3ft wide with 4ft or taller wheels or even the 700mm bicycle wheels should be able to carry plenty and not be too large. The main thing the Mormon Handcart was good for was bad terrain, a little help getting started by turning the wheels got a group going while trading off – still moving.
    This was a bad time for the LDS, I just wanted to show how easy a modern cart, made with even conduit frame (maybe off road bicycle brakes) could work. A bicycle trailer could be made here, large load, and the cart would be invaluable in and extended situation, to carry injured, dead, or just to move loads for trade.

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