Caregiver advocates stress disaster preparedness

Emergency Planning for Caregivers

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Caregivers are those who care for family members who are elderly, ill, or disabled. After severe weather and flooding impacted many throughout the Northland, advocates are stressing the importance of having a plan in place in case of emergency or natural disaster.

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for caregivers (RCI) was started by the former first lady in the late 1980s with the goal of supporting caregivers through programs, initiatives and advocacy.

While those caring for a relative who’s elderly or infirm may have a handle on things such as meals and medication, what to do in an emergency might not in the minds of a caregiver, explained Paurvi Bhatt, the RCI’s President and Chief Impact Officer.

“Oftentimes, things like an emergency that happens without warning many times doesn’t end up on our radar, let alone the radar of first responders who are here to help us.” Bhatt said.

Bhatt describes herself as a former caregiver, having had looked after her mother in the past. She described a time when a flight delay caused her to be away much longer than she had expected.

“Never once did I consider that we were going to be separated without an ability to communicate, that she would be worried that something could have happened to her while I was fine someplace else. None of that was planned, whereas everything else was.” Bhatt explained.

Emergencies like this are what the RCI wants to help caregivers manage. Partnering with both FEMA and the VA, it developed guidebooks specifically to help caregivers make a plan for when disasters occur.

“This is really to get out ahead and make sure you have a kit ready to go, make sure that you thought through what might make someone anxious, and make sure that you stay connected.” Bhatt said.

The RCI prepared their guides in part by feedback from actual caregivers, to incorporate real-world experiences.

The RCI has created two guidebooks, “Take Control in 1, 2, 3: Disaster Preparedness Guide for Caregivers”, as well as “Prepared Military Caregivers”, a version designed specifically to meet challenges unique to those caring for veterans.

 Both guidebooks are free, and are available on the RCI’s website.