November is National Family Caregivers Month: Is Your Loved One Ready for Emergencies?

Holding Hands with Elderly PatientEach year, more Americans are caring for a loved one with a chronic condition or disability.  There are as many as 90 million family caregivers in the U.S. today. While administering daily care is extremely important, caregivers must also take steps to help those they care for be prepared for unexpected emergencies. We recently sat down for a question and answer session with Evelyn McFarlane, a caregiver in Georgia, and asked her to tell us how she recommends preparing loved ones for emergencies.

Evelyn is a registered nurse who received special training from the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta to care for her sister, Joan. Joan is a quadriplegic and she relies on help from Evelyn and other caregivers for all daily activities.

Q: Evelyn, how do care for your sister each day?

A: Our day begins with stretching exercises. When in bed, she has to be turned every two hours to prevent skin breakdown. She gets very stiff if left in the same position for a long period of time, then I bathe, dress and feed her. Most days she is placed in her wheelchair, and she goes to therapy two days a week. I make sure her room is kept clean, and I handle the cooking, laundry and shopping. Joan sings in the church choir, so I take her to rehearsals.

Q: Based on your experience, what steps would you recommend Georgia caregivers take to ensure that their loved ones are prepared for emergencies?

A: Keep emergency contact numbers for doctors, the hospital, and close relatives and friends in your Ready kit. Also, keep important documents such as patient directives in a water-tight plastic bag.

Q: Are there any steps specific to Joan’s situation that you take to ensure she’s ready for the unexpected? 

A: I’ve made sure that Joan has a phone with all important contact information that she can control with voice commands.  The other caregivers and I are all educated on how to use this phone, in case Joan needs help operating it.

Following her injury, Joan became a motivational speaker, and now inspires others through her story of survival.

As recommended, make sure you have a designated Ready kit for the one you care for, and make sure it is filled with all medications, supplies phone numbers and documents you would need in the event of a disaster. For more information on preparing Georgians with access or functional needs, visit ready.ga.gov.