Emergency Preparedness for Natural Disasters

Emergency Preparedness for Natural Disaster

With recent events, I wanted to stress the importance of planning for a natural disaster.  I am in an area where we are having tornados.    Caregivers have the responsibility to be able to provide emergency care for their loved ones, even in a tornado.

The best way to do this is to figure out what you would do in the type of natural disaster for your area.  This is a broad guideline that you will have to tailor to your area.

1.  Find out about individual assistance that may be available in your community. It is possible that in your area there are agencies that you can register so that they know you have someone who needs special care.  I would talk to the Red Cross to begin with and they can tell you what agencies you might be able to register with.

2.  As you prepare, consider all everything you use for your loved one with a disability on a daily basis. You may need medications, certain medical equipment and supplies, service animal, etc.

3.  Talk to those around you so that they know your plan.  Involve them in the plan if you are planning on using them as backup to help.  Make sure they know how to use any equipment you use with your loved one.

Keep your caregiver manual up to date and make sure you take it with you. This will help anyone that has to provide emergency care know doctors, diagnosis, medications, emergency numbers,etc.

You might have to explain to emergency people why you need to evacuate first in order to protect your loved one.  Some shelters are hesitant to take service animals but legally they have to.

4.  Make a bag up that you can grab if you have to evacuate quickly.  Here is a list of a few thing but not all you may need.  Some of it should be in your caregiver binder already.

List of medications, doctors, emergency numbers, allergies, etc.

Chargers and batteries for any devices you use daily that you can take with you

If you have a service animal, food for it.  Documentation that it is a service animal.

If you have to use a device to communicate with your loved one, you need to be                    able to grab it and go!

Any medical supplies you use regularly like bandages, insulin, needles, catheters,             depends, portable oxygen tank etc.

5.  Try to think of what you would need if you ended up in a shelter to take care of your loved one.  There is no way you can pack everything but you should take what is essential to keep your loved one alive.

Make a list and stick it on the fridge so that you use it so that you don’t forget something in your haste to move to safety.

Of course, if it is necessary, just grab your loved one and go!  The Red Cross and other organizations can usually get supplies but if you can take it with you, you will feel better.

Interviewing the respite caregiver

Hiring anyone to take care of your loved one requires checking them or their agency out carefully.  Some agencies require background checks on all their respite workers but do NOT assume they do.  The only way you are going to feel comfortable leaving your loved one with someone else is to assure yourself by checking everything out first.

Most people find respite workers through and agency.  Although I was aware of our local respite organization, I also could have went on the internet and searched for “respite workers Hastings, Nebraska” and several agencies would have popped up.  You could also check with your medical team or local Health and Human Services department to see who they suggest.

Respite care providers in Nebraska requires several trainings.  Different caregivers will choose to only work with certain ailments and age groups.  The training includes medication delivery, bathing, first aid, CPR, emergency care, psychology and emergency care.

Interview any possible respite workers carefully since they will be working for you.  Make sure they are aware of all the responsibilities they will have.  Ask if they feel comfortable with the level of care your loved one needs.  Make sure they are aware of the medical needs they will need to able to take care of along with any other needs.    Make sure they want to take care of a patient in your age range and level of disability.  Some respite caregivers are more comfortable with youth, only females, people able to use the restroom, bathe themselves, etc.

Trust your instincts.  If something doesn’t feel right, even if all the paperwork makes it seem like it should work, keep looking for the respite worker that makes you feel good about it.

To me it was important that my respite worker would get along with mom so she was included in the interview.  Mom had reactions to certain people so naturally I picked one that mom seemed ok with and that treated mom with respect.

Then we did a trial run where the respite worker came and I left (even though I just went outside).  The first time was only about an hour to see if it felt right.  We were lucky and found one right away.  I have talked to caregivers who tried several before they found the right one.

It is always good to have more than one but mom didn’t like too many people in her environment so we stuck with just one.

Next post we will discuss the information that has to be readily available for the respite caregiver.

Do you have any experiences with respite providers that might help others in their searches?  Any questions you think they should ask?

Respite Care – Do you need a break?

Respite Care – Do you need a break?

Caregiving can be exhausting.   The day to day care without a break is one of the reasons that caregivers can die before the person needing care.  Respite care can give a temporary break from the struggle of the stress while still giving the person needing care professional help that is trained to take care of your loved one.  Using respite can strengthen and support your abilities as a caregiver.  Seeking help does NOT make you a bad person.  It just means you have a life outside of being caregiver.

Respite can be for many different reasons.  It can be for something as simple as grocery shopping,  medical appointments, a meal out or just going to sit at the park for some ‘me’ time. It can even be for a weekend away for many reasons.  The idea is for you to be able to recharge your batteries WITHOUT sacrificing the care for your loved one.

Respite care can be provided in your home or in a care facility such as a nursing home or adult day care facility.  Generally when done in the home, the respite worker does all the normal things like you do such as cooking, cleaning and personal care along side of any medical care.  With more intensive cases you might need to use a nursing home or adult care facilities.

None of this is generally covered by insurance or Medicare.  But, there are sometimes funds to care for this type of care.  Grants are available from time to time.  The cost varies from person to person but is usually typical for the area.   Where I live the general cost is $10.00 per hour.  This is set by the respite worker.

Since respite care is such an important part of caregiving we will discuss this in three posts.

Next post we will be discussing interviewing the respite caregiver.

Patience – A Much Needed Virtue

As we all know, being a caregiver can be very taxing.  It makes you draw on your strength, nurturing abilities and your patience.  Sometimes your patience is the hardest thing to maintain.

We have to remember that the people we are caring for might be in pain, embarrassed to have to have a caregiver, scared and/or mad at their bodies for breaking down.  They are not upset with us but the situation.

It is hard to have a loved one yell at you or refuse to cooperate with what you have to do in order to help them.  At times, they act like little children.  I particularly remember when Mom would get this look in her eye and just say “nope” when I tried to get her to take her pills or drink something.

There is no easy way to tell someone how to have patience.  What worked for me was to walk away and try later.  It did me no good to try to ask her to take it again or “force” her to do it.  Sometimes I was able to distract her and she would do it without realizing it.  Sometimes music will calm someone.

Sometimes you just need a break.  The next three posts will be about Respite Care.  It is a way to get away from the situation enough to come back refreshed and ready to begin again.

What do you do when your patience is at an end?  Please let us all know so that we might be able to try it when we really need it.

November is Caregiver’s Month – Celebrate Yourself!

Following are some very interesting facts about caregivers in the United States.    Here are some very interesting facts about caregivers:


  • 39% of all adult Americans are caring for a loved one who is sick or disabled – up from 30% in 2010
  • Alzheimer’s is driving the numbers up.  15 million family caregivers are caring for 5 million loved ones with Alzheimer’s
  • It is NOT just elderly who need caregivers.  The number of special needs children is rising too.
  • Wounded veterans need care too.  As many as 1 million Americans are caring in their homes for service members from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are suffering from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or other wounds and illnesses.
  • It’s not just the women doing the caregiving.  Men are now almost as likely to say they are family caregivers as women are (37% of men, 40% of women).  36% of younger Americans between 18 and 29 are family caregivers as well.
  • Family caregiving is serious work.  Almost half of family caregivers perform complex medical/nursing tasks for their loved one.
  • Family caregivers are the backbone of the Nation’s long-tern care system.  Family caregivers provide $450 BILLION worth of unpaid care each year.  That is more than total Medicaid funding and twice as much as homecare and nursing home services combined.

These facts are from the Caregiver Action Network – www.caregiveraction.org – 202-772-5050

You are a very vital part of your loved ones life.  Too many times, caregivers just do what needs to be done without thinking they are doing something special.  After all, these are our loved ones we take care of but YOU ARE SPECIAL and so is what you do.

Veteran’s Benefits – Check Them Out

Many people overlook this possible way to pay for elder care.  Not only does the veteran possibly qualify, so does the spouse.  Below is some information but the quickest way to find out if your loved one qualifies if to get the DD-214 (discharge paper) of the veteran and call your local Veteran’s Service Officer.  He/she is usually located in the county seat.

Below is some information I have taken from the internet to help you.

Veterans who are at least 65 years-old and who served during war time (though not necessarily in actual combat) may be eligible for financial assistance through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) that can be used to help pay for care. Spouses and surviving spouses of wartime veterans are also often eligible. Veteran’s benefits can make all the difference for families who struggling to pay for care.

*Veterans who are under 65 but rated 100% disabled can also qualify for the VA Pension described in the article.

When you had to serve:

The foremost eligibility requirement is the service requirement. The veteran must have served at least 1 day during wartime. The dates that the VA considers wartime are below:

World War II:12/7/1941 through 12/31/1946

Korean Conflict:6/27/1950 through 1/31/1955

Vietnam War: 8/5/1964 through 5/7/1975, although veterans who served in Vietnam itself (“in country”) as early as 2/28/1961 may also qualify.

Gulf War: 8/2/1990 to date to be determined by U.S. government

These dates can be found on your DD-214

Three different types of help:

There are three tiers of VA benefits for older wartime veterans and their dependents. Basic Pension can be considered the first tier, Housebound the second tier, and Aid and Attendance the third tier. Award amounts increase as the tier increases, and the tiers are based on the needs of the applicant:

  • Basic Pension: Basic Pension is designed to function as cash assistance for low income veterans and their dependents, so applicants may be healthy, but must have a very low income.
  • Housebound Benefit: For the second tier, Housebound, assistance with day to day activities must be needed “regular basis.”
  • Aid and Attendance: Assistance must be required on a “daily basis.”

Depending on the veteran’s care needs and financial status, Aid and Attendance can provide $2,000 or more towards the cost of assisted living or other types of senior care. Even surviving spouses of wartime veterans may qualify for related benefits. Considering the relatively high cost of senior care, the benefit can be a godsend for families and seniors who would have had great difficulty affording senior care otherwise.

Financial Eligibility

Assistance from the VA is “means tested,” which means that only people who seem to genuinely need these benefits will receive an award. It also means that benefits are determined based on the applicant’s income, assets, and needs.

Applicants whose countable incomes are over maximum thresholds, including their homes, may still qualify, depending on their age and the amount of their monthly allowable medical benefit. In situations that are borderline, it can’t hurt to apply, as decisions are largely made on a case-by-case basis:

I found this very confusing but my veteran’s service officer was very helpful.

Where to go to apply:

To apply for VA health care or determine eligibility, contact a Veterans Benefits Office or VA health care facility (find the nearest location at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).


Area on Aging

Area On Aging

Our local area on aging is one of 667 Area Agencies on Aging nationwide and one of eight in Nebraska that help ensure older Nebraskans remain independent, healthy and safe in their homes and communities for as long as possible. Authorized by the Older American Act of 1965,

I am sure that there is one in your area.  I looked on the internet to see if there was a central location to search for one but the only information that I found that was nationwide is:  www.n4a.org or http://www.aoa.gov   Both of these have places where you can search for one in your area.  Otherwise, you could search for “area on aging in ****” with the **** being your town and state.

Today’s older adults are looking forward to longer, more active lives. To help them accomplish this, most Area on Aging can coordinate services for people ages 60 and older to maintain the independence they desire. Most of the services are provided at a no cost basis, but a voluntary contribution is requested to help defer the total cost of provision.

Here is a listing of what ours does so that you have an idea of what information you might find from yours.

In-Home Services – Services where people come to people’s home to help

Center Services – Services offered at our local county service centers

Transportation – Need to get to an appointment – We’re here to assist you.

Caregiver Support Services – Helping families provide their loved ones with appropriate care.

Care Management – Details on our friendly faces that will help you.

Health and Nutrition – Living and eating for a long healthy life.

SMP Program – Understand, identify and prevent healthcare fraud

Ombudsman – An advocate for the rights and well-being of nursing home and assisted-living facility residents

Once a year they help set up volunteers to come out and help people with their Medicare Part D selections.

Check out the Area on Aging in your location. 

There is a lot of help out there that will make your decisions easier.  Don’t be afraid to ask.