September 15, 2017
Yolanda Webb, MA
Associate Vice President of Home and Community Based Services
Welcome to our monthly blog where we hope you will find useful information on our in-home personal support services for seniors and or disabled individuals, and information that will help you, if you are a caregiver, to navigate the next steps in the journey of life that presents the “what if’s,” for families.
My first blog just so happens to coincide with the conclusion of two major hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. My mother, who is nearly eighty years old, lives alone in Alabama. This is a woman who is fiercely independent, and as a former social worker knows all about emergency preparedness.
Early one morning when Hurricane Irma was fast approaching off the coast of Florida, I received a frantic phone call from my sister who lives in Michigan. It went something like this;
Sister: “Hey, what are we gonna do about mom!?”
Me: “What, who’s mom?” I’m kinda groggy because it’s 2:45 am.
Sister: “Our mom, wake up! That hurricane is about to hit Florida and we need to get mom out of there!”
Me: “Oh, hi sis! I talked to her and she does not want to leave. She said she’s fine!”
Sis: “She’s not fine, she’s old!”
My sister and I went back and forth for the next hour (I was clearly up by then), but my mother had made herself perfectly clear the day before. She did not want to leave.
So what do you do for those who may be elderly or disabled, whether they live far away or near by, and you want to ensure they are safe and in good hands.
In talking with my mother the next day we struck a compromise. In-home personal care or rather companionship. She was not willing to give up her independence, but would compromise to allow an agency like Meritan, who had quality ratings, come in and check on her and follow up with our family as her line of support.
Seniors or disabled individuals who can become stranded at home during natural disasters or emergency situations can often become fearful and disoriented, or in my mother's case afraid to lose their independence if they are forced to move from their homes. So what can you do in situations like this to help seniors prepare in emergency situations? Here are a few tips I hope you find as useful as we did.
In-Home Caregivers: Caregivers with our in-home personal support services can check on their senior/disabled clients during emergency situations using smartphones or email (if available).
Near by Family/Friends/Neighbors: As in my mom’s case we contacted all of our family who lived near by. But, we went a few steps further. Because my mom doesn’t live in assisted living facility, but wanted her own ‘retirement’ apartment, she lives in a wonderful complex that has both seniors and young families. We met several of the neighbors when we moved her in and gave two of them all of her contact information and all of our contact information.
The lady who lives upstairs from her in the complex kept us informed on the status of the hurricane and its potential impact on Alabama. She also checked in with us when she checked on my mom (which was twice a day) and she would call me personally out of my mom’s presence to let me know if she thought I needed to come to Alabama.
Get to Know Your Community's Emergency Personnel: My sister and I went one last step further when we moved my mother to Alabama. We visited the local fire department and medical center where my mother would receive care during an emergency. Relationships help build up trust and in an emergency my mom could put a face and maybe name to the first responders who would come to assist her in a time of need.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma won’t be our last storms or natural disasters. Being prepared is our first line of defense to help our loved ones get through...in case of emergency.