Disaster Planning for Those with Special Needs

News reports filled with heartbreaking images of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas are still fresh in many of our minds. While Long Island is frequently spared from the damage of such severe storms, we still remain vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. Planning ahead is essential, especially during hurricane season.

For most, an emergency plan involves stocking up on milk, water, bread and extra batteries for the flashlight. Depending on the severity of the situation, packing up a few necessities, the kids, and the pets and driving to a safer location might be required. This is a luxury reserved for the able-bodied, but what if you are elderly and/or disabled? What if you have medical equipment that requires electricity? How do you evacuate if the elevator becomes inoperable? Assuming you get to the ground floor, who transports you to safety? Will there be food for your service animal?

For those with special needs, an emergency kit will vary depending on the nature of a disability, but might include extra batteries for hearing aids, a collapsible manual wheel chair, a list of caregivers and phone numbers in a sealed plastic baggie, enough medications for a week, catheters, a portable oxygen tank, a few cans of dog food, information in braille, snacks compatible with dietary restrictions, etc.

A generator, for many, is merely a luxury which would keep the refrigerator cold and the TV on. For others who rely on electrically powered medical equipment, a generator is a necessity. There are government funded programs to address this. FEMA has a generator reimbursement program for this purpose. See: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/94768

There are also many federal, state, and local registries for the disabled which notify first responders and help them locate those who might not be able to evacuate on their own.

An excellent resource for the disabled can be found on FEMA’s website,

https://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/FRES/Office-of-Emergency-Management/Emergency-Prep-for-People-with-Special-Needs

Although the elderly and disabled are disproportionately endangered and affected by natural and man-made disasters, effective planning and knowledge of resources can help to avoid tragedies.

Need help with planning for those with special needs? Call me! (516) 584-2007.

 

Nicole Christensen on Project Independence WCWP.org with John Ryan & Ann Hirsch

Recently, Care Answered Director Nicole Christensen appeared on Project Independence, a radio program dedicated to the needs of older adults. Hear the shocking statistics she shared with hosts John Ryan and Ann Hirsch about preventable medical errors and how to be your own healthcare advocate.

Listen here:

https://northhempsteadny.gov/PI-2019-01-Radio-Shows

 

 

Helping a Loved One Manage Chronic Conditions

Six in ten adults live with at least one chronic disease, such as cancer, heart disease, asthma, stroke and diabetes, while four in ten have multiple chronic conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While many adults are able to manage their own chronic medical conditions, as they age this can become a challenging juggling act, especially when there are multiple medical conditions being treated.

Knowing When to Help

Some people with chronic medical conditions develop tricks and habits to help them cope. These techniques may make it appear that they are managing fine, when in reality they are just barely getting by. A seemingly inconsequential issue – a minor cold, a missed trip to the pharmacy, or a skipped meal – may be all that it takes for disaster to strike. The trick for loved ones is to know when to step in with assistance.

older man looking into camera

Get Involved Early

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Offer to accompany your loved one to doctor’s appointments if your schedule permits. This will enable you to assess whether your loved one appears to understand the doctor’s instructions and is following his or her medication regimen and dietary recommendations.

Try to encourage frank discussions about your loved one’s condition. Encourage them to be honest about their symptoms, pain, and ability to function. Listen without judgment.

When More Help is Needed

If you feel that your loved one may need more help as their disease progresses, explore all of your options. The areas in which assistance may be needed include:

  • Personal care – bathing, dressing, washing hair. A family member may be able to assist with this, or a personal care aide can be brought in to help with these types of tasks.
  • Household chores – cooking, cleaning, laundry, minor household repairs. Again, a friend or family member may be able to visit the home to help with cooking and housework. Another option is for someone to deliver pre-cooked meals or for your loved one to travel to a senior center or local club for a hot meal. Often minor repairs can be outsourced to a local handyman; ask neighbors and friends for a trustworthy referral. If more help is needed, a personal care aide may be able to pitch in.
  • Medication compliance – pill boxes, alarms, phone calls and other technological devices can help remind your loved one about which medication to take and when to take it.

An Advocate can Help

When the juggling act of trying to coordinate the multiple aspects of a loved one’s care becomes overwhelming, it might be time to consider hiring an advocate. A healthcare advocate can help you determine what care options are available and put those services into place, accompany your loved one to doctor’s appointments, make sense of complex medical information and untangle medical bills and insurance documents, arrange for in-home care or nursing home placement as needed. To learn more about what an advocate can do, call us at 516-584-2007.