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. Plan ahead, and your chances of real disaster drop dramatically. But dealing with a patient with Alzheimer's or a related dementia is difficult. Stroke patients with limited mobility, senior citizens who use oxygen or may be confined to a wheelchair, and other elderly family member who may simply be slower to respond is fraught with peril. Wait, assuming everyone will do the right thing (and besides, changes of a true disaster are fairly small), and deep trouble or even tragedy can strike.
Here in New England, we rarely deal with hurricanes, but 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, but 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. Meals, medications, and emergencies supplies can be checked. Flashlights, blankets, heating oil, and other critical items can be stocked in advance.
But sometimes even those preparations do not save us. After the Boston Marathon bombing, we had dozens of clients in areas where travel was prohibited and 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.