As a caregiver, caring for a loved one in a crisis is a challenge, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic makes preparation more important than ever. Caregivers must balance the need for their care partner's health and balance it with that person's safety. As the US heads into seasonally extreme weather months, it is prudent to create or revisit existing plans for evacuating a patient or loved one displaced or challenged by tornadoes, blackouts, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, cyber ransomware attacks, even a resurgence of COVID-19.
Suppose your loved one resides in an in-patient facility. In that case, it is important to know what plans and procedures are in place to address whatever crisis, including current COVID-19 protocols and restrictions the hospice, nursing home, retirement community, assisted living operators, and residence may face. You can share that information with your care partner in a general way to assure them there are protocols in place to protect them and what they can anticipate. An open conversation allows you to allay any fears they may have, and there could be many due to the isolating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
If you do not have a caregiver disaster plan, it is a good time to create one. The plan can address specific seasons as summer plans can differ drastically from winter ones. Write a list of your loved one's current needs, impairments, and routines, including important identifying information such as a current photo, date of birth, and Social Security number. Include all known allergies, medications, and diagnoses. A short biography that can inform providers of their interests, personality, and background can go a long way, especially if you as the caregiver typically provide their "voice."
Emergency relocation requires addressing the need to move all assistive medical devices and durable medical equipment. Don't forget batteries and rechargers! Remember that a proactive early departure during a crisis when cooler heads prevail can reduce stress levels and help you avoid potential difficulties like gas shortages and traffic jams. Does your chosen relocation site have adequate availability of food, water, toiletries, and medication? You can check with the pharmacy before leaving as many will provide early refills in times of emergency, and a host of major retailers offer prescription delivery. If you are remote to your care partner, check with charitable organizations or neighbors to supply donations or meals and provide daily checks.
Suppose you must leave your loved one in the care of an assisted living or nursing home where you will experience limited contact. Below are some recommendations:
· Make sure the facility has your primary and alternative contact information.
· Specifically request updates regarding any changes in your loved ones' emotional or physical state.
· Ask for medical records that document all care they are administering.
· Communicate with your loved one in any way possible and often, whether by phone, video chat, or any other means 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.
Planning for unexpected crises is not easy because how do you create responses for what has not yet happened? However, there are basic strategies to implement that can be amended to fit specific situations as they arise. If the plan includes relocation, be sure to check with local authorities regarding current COVID-19 restrictions. The planning steps you take may seem very small in light of the larger impact of a crisis event, but these steps can provide organization, protection, and comfort in times of great uncertainty.
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