READ “Hurricane Sandy Lessons Learned and Actions Taken,” an article which appeared in Caring Magazine in June 2013
Unlike other areas of health care, the expertise of home care agencies and staff is rooted in the delivery of services to patients in their home environment, where possible risks to the patient’s safety might otherwise be invisible to emergency management entities concentrating on outside environmental factors.
When a storm or natural disaster strikes, home care agencies in emergency zones:
Identify thousands of elderly, disabled, chronically-ill and other vulnerable patients on their patient rosters who are in need of evacuation to emergency shelters, with particular concern for patients who depend upon life-sustaining in-home medical equipment susceptible to power outages;
Consult with and help patients plan for evacuation in the lead-up to a storm;
Assess the safety of the patient’s living environment and ensure that the patient has access to basic necessities, including medications or nutritional supplies; and
Play an important follow-up role as well, ensuring continuity of vital medical, therapeutic and assistive services while working with social services agencies and other entities to make certain that the home environment remains safe for the patient.
With washed-out roads, bridges and other infrastructure limitations, a home care agency and its direct-care personnel may be the patient’s sole access to health services and other basic necessities in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
The role of home care in emergency situations is not restricted to response efforts. Just as home care providers offer preventive health services to help keep patients out of the hospital or nursing home, they also offer preventive emergency preparedness services.
Home care agencies and their clinicians are trained to ensure that patients have emergency kits, operable smoke detectors, as well as a “go-bag” of medications, identification cards and other important items that can be quickly gathered and brought with the patient in the event of an evacuation, especially when a storm or other emergency situation is known to be imminent. Such is the case for hurricane preparedness in coastal and flood-prone areas as well as for winter weather disasters in northern and western New York.