Hurricane Harvey brought many harrowing images – none more stirring than a group of nursing home residents sitting waist-deep in water, awaiting rescue. Elder care during emergencies presents challenges best met in advance. Dealing with a patient with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia is difficult. Emergency preparations for stroke patients with limited mobility, senior citizens who use oxygen or may be confined to a wheelchair, and other elderly family members who may simply be slower to respond is fraught with peril. Plan ahead, and your chances of real disaster drop dramatically. Wait, and deep trouble or even tragedy can strike.
Elder Care During Emergencies – Safety First
Here in New England, we rarely deal with hurricanes. Elder care during emergencies usually means we have good, old-fashioned nor’easters and blizzards to contend with. Seniors living alone are especially vulnerable at those times. We have earlier posted about Caring for Elders during Emergencies, which we recommend you re-read. Given recent events, this bears repeating.
Most weather emergencies allow us to plan ahead. For Hurricane Harvey, one of the few saving graces (if we can call it that) was that at least it was not a surprise. When we face a New England blizzard with risk or a power outage or of limited travel, we also usually have a chance to arrange care in advance. Family, friends, or professional caregivers can arrive in advance of the weather and be on hand during the worst times. You can check meals, medications, and emergencies supplies. You have time to stock flashlights, blankets, heating oil, and other critical items.
But sometimes even those preparations do not save us. The Boston Marathon bombing arrived without warning. We had dozens of clients in areas where travel was prohibited. Everyone was on edge. At those points, we often had caregivers walking some significant distance to reach elderly clients living alone who needed help. It was an inspiring display of staff who were dedicated to their clients and profession.
Elder Care During Emergencies – Reassurance and Comfort
Safety trumps all, so elder care during emergencies of course focuses on critical tasks. We have discussed previously some steps for reassuring elders during an emergency which bears re-reading. Loss of control is frightening to us all. It is especially so for someone who until recently was accustomed to taking care of himself or herself but is now much more dependent on others. Explain what is happening and what steps you are taking to address the problem, but know also that often your presence or voice – or simply your time – will do more than any facts and figures to set someone at ease.
Planning ahead, as with so much in life, dramatically eases this burden. Elder care during emergencies is not a topic many people think of often (except, maybe, home care CEOs). If a loved one in your family now needs help getting through a normal day, the task will be far harder during a crisis. Plan ahead, and your odds are much improved. Good luck!