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Could your agency cope with a major disaster that displaces you or your clients? Here are some tips from Jane Hron, home care director for Marcus Daly Home Care, Hamilton, MT, and Sarah Rochester, director of the Los Alamos (NM) Visiting Nurse Service, about what they learned from their experiences:
- Keeping track of clients is your toughest, most important job. Many home care clients are part of formal evacuations, while others are moved by family members to homes or motels. When disaster threatens, make sure your patients know to apprise you of any moves. At Marcus Daly Home Care, the agency installed a map with pins showing where patients were located. This made it easy to see who was affected by an evacuation.
- Don’t forget your staff. They too, may have to evacuate their homes. It’s useful to know where everyone lives, so that you can predict staffing shortages as neighborhoods are evacuated. Hron says Marcus Daily Home Care provided housing for any evacuated employees to help them adjust and retain as many staffers as possible to continue patient care.
- Maintain a portable file of patient information. If all of your information is on mainframe computers or in bulky paper files, you won’t be able to transport it in an evacuation. Rochester suggests putting together a binder with an information sheet on each patient to take with you in case your office is evacuated. Not only will it help you find relatives quickly to locate patients, but it can aid in care and make it easier to transfer patients to other agencies if necessary.
- Let your patients know what to expect in an emergency. Marcus Daly distributes an emergency preparedness handout in admissions packets ( see insert). It includes an emergency checklist for the client and caregivers. Staff were able to review it in depth with clients when a disaster actually materialized, Hron says.
- Know what disasters threaten your area. Rochester says she had no idea that her Los Alamos community also was in a flood zone — something that could become a factor on acres stripped of foliage.
- Check your insurance coverage. Does it take into account the unique demands of your business? Because a home health agency does so much of its work offsite, your insurance coverage may not be as comprehensive as you need, Rochester says. n
• Jane Hron, Home Care Director, Marcus Daly Home Care, 708 S. First St. Hamilton, MT 59840. Phone: (406) 363-6503. Fax: (406) 363-2866.
• Cheryl Rayer, Manager, Mercy Home Care, 1031 Seventh St., Devils Lake, ND 58301. Phone: (701) 662-2131, ext. 7260. Fax: (701) 662-9681.
• Sarah Rochester, Director, Los Alamos Visiting Nurse Service, 116 Central Park Square, Los Alamos, NM 87544. Phone: (505) 662-2525. Fax: (505) 662-7390 E-mail: email@example.com.