Q: My 92 year old mother lives in her home receiving 24 hour care. The two private workers have been with her for 18 months and are very responsible but I still worry. She lives in an area that is rarely in the direct path of a hurricane but often receives residual effects of a storm. I want to make sure both workers know what to do in the case of power loss or other emergency. I live a long distance away and can not assist if there are any problems. Do you have any information I can pass on?
A: Fires in California, tornadoes in the Midwest and hurricanes sweeping through the Southeast have unfortunately become all too common. No one should be complacent, at any given time an area could be impacted by a natural disaster. Governor Baker has proclaimed September 2018 as Emergency Preparedness Month encouraging individuals and families to plan for disasters and other types of emergencies.
If the situation arises decisions will need to be made whether to shelter in place or seek cover elsewhere. The workers caring for your mother may be reliable but you have a responsibility to be available to them to give guidance if necessary. The workers should be aware of all options to reach you at any time day or night. You most likely have already done this but keep them updated with your current landline number, cell phone number and email address. On the home front the workers should have an extra battery and charger for their cell phone to keep the lines of communication open (landlines may be down during bad weather).
Anyone who has experienced a power outage for more than a few hours is acutely aware of the challenges they may face. Always keep a supply of batteries in the home for flashlights, battery powered lanterns and battery powered radios (to keep updated on current conditions). A supply of bottled water and non-perishable food items will be important if the food in the refrigerator becomes spoiled. If the property has a well, fill the bathtub ahead of time with water to use for flushing the toilets.
The workers should know in advance where local shelters are located in the event they need to take your mother out of the home. It will be important for them to have a bag packed with medications for 7 days, medical insurance cards, drivers license or other official identification, and change of clothing. A small amount of cash should always be kept in the house in the event banks are closed and ATM machines are not working.
The workers also need to have a plan in place to take care of their own family if they are unable to return home after their shift is over. If possible make other arrangements for someone to come into the house if additional care is needed.
There is extensive information on-line regarding this subject, far more than can be listed in the limitations of this column. Two excellent resources are https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-baker-proclaims-emergency-preparedness-month-and-encourages-individuals-and-families and https://www.cdc.gov/aging/emergency/preparedness.htm. Take time to read all of the information on both these sites.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.