Hurricane Sandy brought with it many preparedness lessons. Everyone leads a busy life, and it is easy to procrastinate on matters that do not have immediate ramifications. Update the will or drive Mom to her doctor’s appointment? No contest. Often it is only when something is barrelling down on us–like a hurricane–that we act to get certain affairs in order. Sometimes, there is simply not enough time to properly plan before disaster strikes.
For example, stories have emerged regarding the lack of planning exhibited by a nursing home in Queens, leading to suffering and chaos among residents. The New York Times recently reported on the fiasco at the long-term care facility. According to reports by several familiar with the incident–including some facility employees–the owners of the home were far from prepared for the major weather event. The facility is near the water, and in the midst of the storm, most of the first floor windows were blown out. Rising waters then seeped into the area, flooding everything. Many of the residents were upstairs at the time, and the water took out the power. At first the caregivers assumed the back-up generators would have things up and running again. They didn’t. That is because the generators were on the first floor and were swept up in the flooding. On top of that, the owners and operators of the facility had not stocked up enough food for the disaster, and the kitchen itself was on the first floor. This all meant that very vulnerable senior residents were forced to wait hours in the cold without food, water, or access to certain electronic devices they desperately needed for health and well-being purposes.
But it gets even worse.
Emergency responders eventually came to the scene to evacuate the seniors. Yet, little to no planning had been done for an evacuation. That meant that most residents were split up and taken to shelters without a staff member and without their medical records. There was no accounting for where these individuals were taken, and no notice to their family members. Even today, two weeks after the storm, there are some New Yorkers who do not know where their loved one is located. State officials are already looking into the matter to figure out what went wrong.
The lesson from this ordeal is unmistakable. It is critical to plan for contingencies well ahead of time. An event like a hurricane and the chaos that follows is a cear reminder of this principle. Waiting until it is too late to plan, means that serious harm often follows. This is obvious when it comes to once-in-a-lifetime weather events. But the lesson holds true for more predictable events as well, like making preparations for long-term care.
All of us hope to grow old someday. Many of us are already there. And hand-in-hand with aging comes certain medical and basic living challenges. That is inevitable. But ensuring proper care when that time comes does not have to come fraught with uncertainty. Visting with professionals, like elder law attorney, to discuss these matters ahead of time can lead to the peace of mind of knowing that, whatever the future holds, things will be accounted for. It is like stocking up with food, water, and batteries before a hurricane…it just makes sense.
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