We live in a dangerous world. It is a big responsibility to care for another person, and even when things are going well, it can be stressful. A crisis, such as illness, trauma, natural disaster, or any other unexpected adverse event, will make that stress skyrocket.
Thinking and adapting are hard when stressed, so disaster experts emphasize the importance of planning and practicing certain situations. For example, you might decide to run a fire drill in your own home. Even if your loved one lives in a residential facility, you want to ensure that the facility has procedures and staff to adequately care for your loved one in a crisis. If you do not have a caregiver disaster plan, start creating one. If you have one, update it yearly and anytime there is a major change in your loved one’s healthcare needs.
Hopefully, you will be able to continue to care for your loved one during and after a crisis. However, other people must know how to care for your loved one if you get separated. The more they know, the better they can do. Start with writing a document to share with alternate caregivers. Involve the person needing care as much as possible in the process. Not only does this make them aware and allow them to contribute, but it is also a great way to open up conversations about what they might like to change in their current situation.
The document should list your loved one’s current needs, impairments, medications, and allergies. Describe what a typical day looks like for them, what provides comfort, what foods they enjoy, and foods to avoid. Include crucial identifying information such as a current photo, date of birth, and Social Security number.
A short biography informing providers of their interests, personality, and background can go a long way, especially if you are often their advocate or need to speak for them. Share this information with other family members, a family lawyer, their care facility, and anyone else who might help during a crisis.
If you do not live with or near the person you are creating the plan for, think about who can help care for your loved one until family arrives. Check which organizations or neighbors may supply necessities and check in on your loved one daily.
Think ahead about how you would evacuate your loved one quickly and safely. Include where you would go, how you would get there, and what you need to bring. Does your chosen relocation site have adequate food, water, toiletries, and medication available? You can check with the pharmacy before leaving, as many will provide early refills in times of emergency. Some major retailers offer prescription delivery. The plan should address specific seasons as summer plans may differ from winter ones.
Often the person needing care has medical needs requiring equipment, medicine, and attention. If they are not mobile, think about how you would relocate them in an emergency. Consider organizing some medical supplies in a bag or box to grab for a quick exit. Emergency relocation requires addressing the need to move all assistive medical devices and durable medical equipment. Remember batteries and chargers!
Try to avoid needing to evacuate quickly. A proactive early departure will help you stay calm and think better. It may also help prevent potential difficulties like gas shortages and traffic jams.
Your plan for someone living in a facility will look different than it would for someone living in their home. Below are some recommendations to ensure loved ones in a facility will stay safe and healthy in a disaster:
- Review the facility’s backup generator, evacuation plan, and other basic precautions.
- Make sure the facility has your primary and alternative contact information.
- Request updates regarding changes in your loved ones’ emotional or physical state.
- Ask for medical records that document all care they are administering.
- Communicate frequently with your loved one in any way possible, whether by phone, video chat, email, or visits, to ensure they are as safe as possible.
- Take detailed notes because it is easy to overlook or forget important details during times of crisis.
- Share as much information as possible with the person living there to reassure them that their health and safety are a priority.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed with all the steps involved in planning and put it off until another day. Unfortunately, you never know when disaster might occur, so starting today is wise. Just jot down the most critical information and share that. You can always update your plan with more detail later. These steps can provide organization, protection, and comfort in times of great uncertainty.
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