Who Will Take Care of Extended Family Members Post-Disaster?

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Have you thought about who will take care of extended family members, post-disaster? If you are the one who will be caring for them, have you thought about what that entails? You likely have a plan to gather up your spouse, kids, or grandkids in the event of a disaster in your region. But what about the others?

You never know who may show up at your door post-disaster

Family is family, and if you are the “crazy prepper” relative, you can likely expect relatives to show up post-disaster. You may have tried to convince some of them to prep to no avail. And here they are, at your door. 

Let’s assume there’s been a shutdown of all ports (causing a severe gasoline shortage). Multiple power grid cyberattacks have left much of the US in the dark. As well, strange weather events have caused the failure of most American crops this year. Two weeks have passed since everything took a turn for the worst, and the US is in chaos. There is no food, riots have erupted, and thugs are systematically robbing and murdering their way from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Would you turn family away? If the answer is no, you will need plans to ensure that everybody is cared for. Here are some of my thoughts on the best way to prepare and plan for that aunty and three cousins who showed up. 

For those who want to help but feel they would be putting themselves at risk, this article can help.

Where will they sleep?

If you have extra furnished bedrooms in your home, this will significantly help. However, what if the number of family members that show up exceeds the number of beds and couches? I think camping cots and sleeping bags make for a fantastic means of sleeping extra people.

Sleeping on a hard floor is pretty rough, regardless of how young you are. A sleeping cot or sleeping pad can significantly improve the quality of one’s sleep. Paired with an extra sleeping bag can help ensure your relatives can stay warm as well on cold winter nights. After all, power outages go hand in hand with disasters!


Sleeping bags

Sleeping Pads

What will they eat?

It’s a realistic expectation that extended family members will show up at some point post-disaster. Therefore, you should consider that in your food preps. I am not suggesting you need to fully prep for more than just your immediate family. However, adding a bit of extra food for cases like these is a good idea. 

Perhaps you should make it clear ahead of time to extended family that if they are coming your way and may stay indefinitely, they should pack and carry as much food as possible in their vehicle. I think it’s something of a fuzzy line here that requires discretion, but hey, it’s food for thought. If someone is escaping an incoming hurricane, that’s one thing. But if we’re talking unrestricted warfare that’s taking place against the American people, that’s something entirely different.

What if they show up with nothing? 

I do think there is some benefit in having extras. Imagine that the above scenario has taken hold, and your niece and her 5-month-old show up at your doorstep with literally nothing but a diaper bag. Her car doesn’t work, she has no idea where her husband is, and her home was burned down by an arsonist mob late last night.

In such a scenario, having an extra coat, extra shoes, extra rifle, extra pistol, and so on could prove of great value. It’s for this reason I like to hang onto old coats when they’ve seen better days. I’m not turning my home into a Walmart, and I’m not anywhere close to starring in an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive. However, I am doing what I can to take care of somebody if they show up at my house unprepared.

Will you be out rounding up extended family?

Are you going to go pick up extended family members or leave them to their own devices? If you have the setup necessary to keep them safe, could you live with yourself if you don’t pick them up? 

Let’s say your granny lives on the other side of town, typically a 45-minute drive away. There’s no way you’re going to leave her to fend for herself during all the chaos. Do you have the means to get her and her stuff safely back to your place?

Do you have a vehicle:

  • with enough space to accommodate what she needs?
  • that she can get in and out of okay?
  • that is reliable to get you from point a to point b? 

Consider as well there are advantages in security and chore efficiency when you have more people on your side. Many hands mean lighter work. 

Do you have an extended family communication plan if the SHTF?

Most of us know communication plans are crucial during disasters and already have them created for immediate family. However, even if they don’t come to your house, you will still want to know that your nieces and nephews are safe. Or that your elderly aunt and uncle are not being preyed upon by malicious people. Proper communication channels let you know:

  • who is where
  • what they need
  • if they are okay
  • what strange things are going on in their area
  • and more

How will you communicate with them if the phone and internet are down? 

If it’s still safe to do so, perhaps this entails driving once a week to everybody’s house to ensure they’re alright. But what do you do in a more severe scenario where that’s not an option? These are questions that are beneficial to think through. Do so now while you have ample time rather than being forced to ad-lib everything post-disaster. 

Ultimately, there are a lot of variables to consider here

Your plans for extended family post-disaster will depend on the type of disaster, its duration, and more. You’re never going to have all the answers here, and you can’t be 100% prepared for 100% of the problems that get thrown your way.

However, dealing with extended family in the event of a disaster is something to think about sooner rather than later. Hopefully, this article has gotten your gears turning on the subject to help you develop your game plan for post-disaster extended family care and concerns. 

So, who will take care of your extended family post-disaster?

I’d love to hear from you and garner some of your input on the subject. I often find The Organic Prepper comments section to have some of the most informative opinions. Who will care for your children? Will you care for the children of others? Do you have additional planning for these purposes? Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts. 

About Aden

Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to PewPewTactical.comSurvivalBlog.comSHTFBlog.comApartmentPrepper.comHomesteadAndPrepper.com, and PrepperPress.com. In addition, he is a freelance writer and also works part-time as a locksmith. On his micro-farm, Aden raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, and chickens. He also grows tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. He has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American at Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • Was just thinking and working with this recently. I wanted to stock up on canned meats. I am not a fan of beef, they dont eat chicken. So a compromise..Turkey. Already had first aid supplies and a cot, cause I live in a hurricane prone area. Will need to add some night lights though or reflective strips on the walls, to help with visuals.

    • I’m not sure how much you want to invest in lighting, but a good start (with an excellent product) is anything from Mr. Beams. The solar outdoor block lights are awesome…hold a charge for 2 days on a full day charge. Jackery also makes an excellent battery that can be charged with solar panels or outlet. I have paired the Jackery 240 with an Onnite light bulb for 2 chicken houses. This set up has worked for me for almost 3 years now. The light bulbs only use 4 watts and are actually a pleasant muted white. Since they use so little wattage, you can get 2 nights worth of light out of them. Hope this gets you started….there are some really great products out there! Good Luck!

  • WHO, or HOW? I have already told those in our extended family who I can and cannot take care of with my stores. I have warned all of them to prep. If they don’t then they are on their own, and I don’t care who comes to our door, if they can’t add to our Self Organized Collective by their talents, then they’ll starve out in the street.

    In a true SHTF scenario we must make hard decisions about who we can save or those we can’t, but we must also be very circumspect about the things we cannot change. You know, like their stupidity for not seeing the writing on the wall. I have given them all fair warning.

    • Another problem is that when “family” have a different mind set, they are now the same as a random threat coming off the street. The less they know about your capability the better. Same mindset folks are the new “family”. They are more likely to be trusted and are able to complement your ability to survive through mutual goals.

  • Sleeping shouldn’t be a problem…half the people will sleep while the other half are standing watch. Rations will be cut, being over weight won’t be an option…but what will you do with the unprepared adult useless eaters.

    • WTR,
      The SHTF or post SHTF diet and exercise program will succeed where all previous programs have failed!

      The unprepared adult useless eaters, if they want to eat, they better become useful. I think you could say the same about kids too.

      However, in regards to seniors, unless they totally bed ridden, they can still do things, or have valuable knowledge. They might not be digging a drainage ditch, or hauling a 5gal bucket of water from half a mile away, but there are other ways they can contribute.

      • Post workout/diet ???? might be what save those lives looking at folks. Even some close to me.

        I’ll try within reason to save mine IF they are worth it. I, like most people, have got some I wouldn’t pee on if they were on fire in the parking lot.
        My plans include both our mothers. We will need eyes of nothing else on kids, guard and inventory. I’m a retired platoon sergeant I can find work for ya ????

        • You guys please help me find some work for my 91 year old FIL. He walks with a walker because of significant balance issues and is pretty far down the dementia road.

          He already lives with us so at least we are able to get used to his situation now instead of after total SHTF. I am trying my best to stock up on all the Depends, Kleenex, Meds, coffee, chocolate and the other things he wants/needs.

          He desperately wants to be around lots of people but he sure doesn’t get that here on the farm. He would love it if my grandkids were here every day to entertain him.

          • JB CAN FIL be taught to use a hand grinder to make hard wheat into flour? Think of chores you would have a child perform based on his dementia status?

          • Hey JB in TX, How about chickens? They do make great pets, soup and lay eggs! Any kind of “pet” may help. Anything (cats, dogs, birds) helps to keep the mind in the game as to pet care. Also, having something to take care of helps create routine and that keeps the mind active. I know it depends on his level of dementia but routine always seems to be the key to continuing activity.

            • Monkeygirl & Julie,
              Thank you both for the brainstorming ideas!! The group here is always so helpful.

              The other easy jobs I have thought of are 1)Shelling peas in the summer. 2)I can teach him how to save seeds. 3)He can help dry or grind herbs.

      • Good point: childcare is always a good trade-off for the elderly to contribute. Bonus for them that they get to spend time with and help bring up the grandkids; the work is tough, but not physically demanding like some of the other options, and it frees up the parents to contribute more without worrying about baby.

        Mending is another good option for the elderly, which helps preserve what you have on-hand in good condition. I work with them in my profession, and most of those from that generation DO want to be useful and helpful in any situation, just gotta give ’em a chance.

        • OopsWrongEmail,

          Well said.

          However, there are some whom think they will be leading the charge in combat.
          I do not rule out their experience and knowledge, but we need to be realistic. If their knees, back, eyes, hearing, or general overall health are not up to the task, then they might be better at other tasks, like training, plans, logistics, etc.

  • Bed roll.
    Yep. Go to a Salvation Army store, buy two or three thick blankets, double them over themselves and make a bed roll. They are cheap to make. Might take a few nights, but you get used to sleeping on the floor.

    Pay close attention to mental health. For some, the shock and stress of the new normal could lead to depression.
    If the grid is down, still need things to distract or entertain people. In the Marines, even in the field, someone always had a pack of cards.

  • This is a very good topic.
    But what one really needs to look at, is not only the possibility of your own extended family, but of the general population of soon to be orphans.

    How many of you will really be able to turn away an orphaned child, who’s parent are non preppers, even if they are not related to you?
    I doubt very many of you really could and there will probably be a lot of them.
    Now without having a lot of mental anguish over it.
    So you need to prep with food or a lot of mental fortitude, or both.

    In any war, major economic collapse or national disaster scenario, there is always a bunch of orphans. There are even more who are currently Street children, who will be in even more dire straights after a SHTF scenario.

    For myself, I have always planned that there would be a lot of orphans. Since my focus is on survival more than just “prepping”, I plan to take them in and teach them how to survive in a SHTF world.
    Since I will be relying more on what nature and God, supplies for food, rather than just my “preps”, there will be room to accommodate at least some of them.
    I will also be in a semi remote area and would not expect to see, but a very small number of them. But I will do whatever I can to help those that I run across.

    This issue will not only be at the beginning of SHTF, but will be a continuing issue.
    As people run out of food, are slain by gangs, war lords and such or succumb to disease, more children will become orphans.

    So this will be an ongoing issue that we will all have to deal with.

    • I’m on the same or similar line of thought as you on the subject of taking in orphaned children and, have been from the get go. Started already when my own kids were young. All of their friends would call me mom and still to this day when they’re in and around their 40ies and I happen across them in town, I always get a hug and a HI MOM!! Hate to admit it, but some I don’t even remember or recognize but, I never let them know that, I always give them a heart felt hug back and ask them how they’re doing. I’ve always “picked up strays”, be it kids or animals and it will be no different in the aftermath of SHTF. I have prepped for the children I know I’ll be taking in, even if I don’t know who they are yet. I don’t have any extended family, only my own children.

      I have stashed away a lot of clothes of every size when I’ve found a bargain at the Goodwill or the small recycle store next to our local dump. Same with bedding, books, games, writing materials et al, and I’m always happy when I’m able to find books which are useful for schooling various subjects. Same as when I find books that deal with food storage, building, mechanics etc. etc. So yes, I know that out on our farm which is off grid, we will have children that will learn how to survive and thrive.

      As for adults? If they can prove that they can be useful and trusted, there might be room for them too…

  • It they can reach me family will come here from states away. I’m the one with a bit of land.
    I live in a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom mobilehome. I have sheds and an older motorhome. I keep extra bedding and air mattresses available. Some used clothing and lots of sewing material thread, 2 treadle sewing machines ect so if necessary we can cloth a crowd with a bit of time. Ultimately food will be a problem if too many come. High mountain desert isn’t the best place to grow abundant crops but some can certainly grow here.
    If things were really terrible it may be too far for many to get here.

    • My two best food storage preps (and cheap, too!) for any climate: dehydrated TVP crumbles (aka tofu in ground-beef-style appearance) for protein, and dried mung beans for fresh veggies.

      TVP crumbles: Soak them overnight in any sort of broth or slightly-flavored water, then heat them or eat them cold, with or without mix-ins, even either a sweet or savory profile. They are very versatile, and especially when mixed into, say, a chili-type base, almost indistinguishable from ground beef. They take on the flavor of whatever they’re combined with, and otherwise do not have a noticeable flavor of their now.

      Mung beans: Within a week, and with only minimal water and even without light, you can have a wealth of this fresh veggie and keep your nutritional intake high. They seem to last forever, too. There are a lot of guides on the web if you haven’t sprouted (not you, specifically, but anyone reading this – you could very well already know all this!). Mung beans are those things you get in Egg Foo Yung patties, primarily, if anyone doesn’t know how they turn out. I have mung beans and powdered egg for this very purpose. 🙂

      Anyway, both of these items are dirt cheap and last a very long time with minimal space, so they might be a good option for people seeking late-game provisions for the unexpected. I also have loads of those protein powders (like by Equate) that you’d normally mix to get a chocolate or vanilla-style dietary drink. This takes little room, but also relies on you having adequate water to mix it with; it’s good protein and other counts, though.

      • Don’t plan on using powdered eggs. They do not keep very long maybe three years, and you need to rotate everything. I date every item that comes into my home. Do you know how to use unflavored gelatin in place of eggs for baking? Do you have some way to cook when the grid is down. I have watched a lot of demo’s on rocket stoves online, great info. Soap is something a lot of people forget, and also matches. Each time I think ‘o.k. I think I am ready, and then I realize there is a ton of items I still need. Knowledge is our best resource and that is where the older generation comes in. Anyone younger than 50 most likely lack a lot of basic skills, and maybe a lot older who have lived in the city all their lives most likely will very lacking in basics also. Our Indian tribes will be our Saviors when it comes to living off the land. Water is more critical than food. Three days without water and you most likely will die. We can go several months without food ( dread the thought, I love food) but those are the facts.

  • Over the course of the last six months, I told my adult married child multiple, multiple times I did not have the money, resources or storage space to even think about taking care of my adult child’s spouse or family. I laid out the math for meals for a year ( x people, 3 meals a day times 365 days equals x+ meals). I physically cannot do it, particularly when my adult child has access to more money and resources RIGHT NOW than I earned in the last 20 years. The reaction? Yeah right, whatever, meh. The kid even sneered and ghosted me. That kid and their family are on their own. As for other relatives, or former co-workers, if they show up, that is their mistake.

  • In this case it is fortunate that I and my husband are elderly. My husband has only one cousin living and we have no other family to consider. It is probably the only time my being an orphan after being abandoned at the age of 11 has really not been a disadvantage.
    Basically we will live until we die and even that is not very far into the future and is getting closer everyday.
    I don’t look forward to the pain of dying or seeing my beloved suffer with going through the dying proccess either. How it manifests will dictate how much pain it will be.
    I can’t imagine my spirit being ripped from my body will be without some amount of pain but when it’s done and over with, we won’t be dealing with al these sick human behaviors we are having to deal with today and we will be free from the tyranny of men. There are some things about dying that are almost worth looking forward to. ????

  • Good topic! Locate, establish and solidify your tribe (immediate family, extended family..) and prep collectively, if they don’t prep, they’re not in your tribe. Simple as that. My tribe has an off grid spot, away from city, everyone has supplies there, constantly building, improving, stock piling, renewing…plans are made and improved upon, nobody will stand stunned when the time comes, we will all move according to plan….there’s really no other way.

  • I’m lucky in the sense that my immediate family members live far away from me and have more money, so I don’t expect them to show up on my doorstep. I do expect some of them, who aren’t into prepping, to be surprised if disaster strikes and to need some advice.

    Recently I was discussing preps with a family member, and though he wasn’t entirely unprepared, he had a few pretty generic set of preps and he hadn’t considered his specific circumstances. I tried to encourage him to think in terms that were more specific to his situation, but since he hates listening to me, it was more a case of planting seeds in his mind and hoping they germinate.

    That’s another thought if disaster strikes: once you have done what you can for yourself and the people you live with, get in touch with family and make sure to give them some sensible advice.

  • Hummm…. Let’s see…. If hungry mouths show up at my door… and they bring nothing and have nothing to offer (except an appetite)… and maybe they previously called me nuts for prepping (one of those CONSPIRACY theorists)… then just MAYBE they won’t get past my threshold… it doesn’t matter who they are! God would have to tell me point blank to let them in.

  • I’ve already planned on one extra mouth for sure. Also offered emergency space for my mom, step dad and handicapped brother. They are aware and preparing but if they ever need to bug out they will pack the camper with whatever preps will fit and come here. Maybe one elderly relative that lives in another state might seek us out if he could get here and his wisdom would outweigh any difficulty he might add.

  • Reading the article, there is a key element of the scenario left out (zombie relatives aside)..leadership. People may come for assistance for a short time for food,shelter,etc. but leadership is what folks really need.

    People sense and respond to decisive leadership. It’s comforting and fills us with a piece of mind that things are under control. Especially when things are not.

    I love talking about what-ifs and when’s as much as the next guy, and what to do with the in laws, but, that’s all academic unless leadership is addressed first.

    We’re preppers. Prepare to lead.

    • ~Jim,
      Great point.

      We (the wife and I) have had semi-serious conversations about what our local community/government could/would look like.
      We are of the opinion to get the word out to as many people as possible of a meeting at the town hall, to get organized from the get go. Dont allow the community to go all Mad Max. Might require going door to door, asking people to talk to their neighbors, get people interested and involved. Let them know they have a say and even a vote (if we have to have elections).
      Another thing, we have a town council. Easy enough with the power on and the gas pumps still running. But as a rural area, they might live 5-10miles away. They may not be able to get to town hall to carry out their duties. Might have to have special elections for new council persons. May have to elect a local sheriff (not me as some would assert, as I do not have any LEO experience and know I have no business doing so), and judge.
      What about a local militia/EMS/fire?
      It has been mentioned before in natural disasters or conflicts sanitation issues, access to clean water causes more deaths then the actual disaster or conflicts. Make sure everyone knows not to contaminate the water supply.
      There will have to be some very hard decisions to be made.
      Some people have a natural leadership abilities. Others have gain those abilities through their employment/occupation. Be aware of those who would be toxic to the community.

      As you said, Jim, be prepared to lead.

  • WE as preppers don’t get a boot camp – no unifying comradery formed with the training – no mindset that hardens us to what is to come – no command structure with a book of rules to follow …

    This kind of discussion is the best we get – an opportunity to bring the unthinkable forward and force us to face some reality >>> one of the worse unfortunately is the simple fact that people will die and we can possibly stem the tide and begin to save even a small percentage …

    Another aspect of that is to realize what is our overall goal – to survive and then re-build / recover civilization and society as WE see it and wish it to be >>> the correct people will be needed for that – any saving of people will have to have its triage aspect to that – extended family relationships might not be the best litmus test for that challenge …

    If you’re a full dedicated prepper – that makes you special – an already correct mindset in a world that doesn’t have much of a sustainable anything >>> choose wisely how you proceed – we’ll be needing you …..

      • 1st.MarineJarHead: You’re right.The comment from Illini Warrior was good. That was not his thoughts or ideas though.
        The Illini Weirdo that most of us are familiar with is barely literate and has difficulty writing a complete sentence.
        He is pathetic troll that roams from site to site trying to be relevant.The
        Ghost Writer isn’t to bad I must say.

        • and “Kay” is a crack whore troll that has nothing better to do between Johns – all her social diseases and drug addiction has taken it’s mental toll – the wheels came off her shopping cart decades ago ….

          don’t suggest she get family help – her pedo family just want more freebies …..

          hit the complaint and get her removed from the sites once and for all – nobody needs POS trash like her

          • Do I get the impression there is some kind of history between you two?

            Honestly I thought Kay was referencing someone else.

            I have seen Illini on other sites. Never thought of him as a troll.

  • My parents stayed with us during the blackouts following the Texas freeze last February. We managed pretty well. They’re in their mid-80s, so pretty set in their ways. The only argument was over dinner. “Mom, I don’t care if y’all eat at 6 every night. It isn’t ready yet.”

    • I’m living that right now with my FIL, who is with us permanently. He also didn’t WANT to come live with us but the family had an intervention and had to overrule his wishes to keep him safe.

  • I think we also need to be prepared with a preplanned answer for any who threaten to tell everyone we have “stuff” if we don’t take them in. Prepare for some using orphans to get food that they will steal from the children. Prepare for those willing to sign a loyalty clause because of extreme hunger, then turn back on their word when they are well fed and cocky.
    I know sooo many good people from church that I would consider taking in if their skills included healthcare, police training in firearms, gardening skills, mechanical repair knowledge , and cooking / sewing skills and good people skills. ( ya gotta get along

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