How solid is your family caregiver emergency planning?

Caregivers lead busy lives. It’s often a challenge just to
keep up with day-to-day obligations. But family caregiver emergency planning is
important, and something that should always be kept up-to-date.

Angela Clary is a licensed clinical social worker and the Outreach Specialist for Adult Family Care.

Emergencies happen, and a crisis is not the best time to
figure things out. A good emergency plan can save time and worry, and help
ensure everyone stays safe.

One of my colleagues recently saw this lesson underscored
firsthand. She’s a social worker, who was working with a family caregiver to
develop a comprehensive safety plan. The caregiver’s mother is an older adult,
who could not navigate the stairs on her own. The family was concerned about
fire safety, but they were not sure how to approach the problem.

My colleague contacted the local fire department for advice,
and they agreed to come to the home to help. Together, the firefighter, my
colleague, and the family came up with a plan. If there was a fire, the mother
would make her way to a second floor balcony, and the family and firefighters
would know to look for her there.

That is just one example. Each case is unique. That is why
it is important to have your own caregiver emergency plan up to speed. Here are
a few tips to help get you started:

Plan together

If you do not have an emergency plan, now is a good time to
create one.  Start by identifying the
most likely safety concerns in the household and develop a response plan
together. Fire, medical, and weather emergencies are common concerns—you may
have more.  The key is identifying
potential problems ahead of time and having a plan that ensures everyone’s
needs are met. It’s important to be on the same page. And be sure to update the
plan as things change.

Evacuation readiness

Having a plan to get everyone out of the house quickly is
crucial. Map the escape routes, with an eye toward identifying potential
problems and designate a meet-up point outside.

Have a backup plan

A caregiver being out of commission for any amount of time
is often an emergency, so it’s best to have a backup plan. Caregivers often
assume family or friends will step up, but that can backfire and leave everyone
scrambling. The emergency plan should include backup for the caregiver, if

Access Resources

Caregiver resources vary by circumstance and location, so it
is helpful to get expert perspectives. Elder service agencies often provide
caregiver resources. One example is Adult Foster Care, a MassHealth funded
program that provides compensation, training, and a home safety evaluation for
family caregivers. Your local agency should know of other programs and
resources as well.

I’ll close with one last bit of advice: having been a social
worker for some time, I have noticed that people often do not want to think
about the worst case scenario, and often vaguely hope that things will just
work out. It is understandable, but I would advise any caregiver that
committing to an emergency planning process is a relatively easy way to help
ensure health and safety. And isn’t that what it’s all about? 

Clary is a licensed clinical social worker and outreach specialist for Adult
Family Care (AFC), an Adult Foster Care provider that serves the Greater
Boston, North Shore, and Merrimack Valley areas.  For more information, email,
call 617-628-2601 or visit