Home Care Providers Need to Prepare Now for Superstorm Sandy

New York and New Jersey residents could start seeing the effects of Hurricane Sandy on Sunday and can expect flooding, high winds, and power outages to last into midweek. In the Rockaways in Queens — considered a flood-prone zone — more than 60 patients on ventilators in nursing homes must be evacuated by 5 p.m. Sunday.

Staffing levels at nursing homes across New York in Sandy’s path must be at 150 percent by the same deadline. As public transportation might not be available or reduced with a prolonged power outage, there needs to be adequate staff to care for patients in these settings as well as patients at home. Home care providers can ensure that fuel, food and medication levels should be checked and stocked. Local hospitals are making similar preparations with redundant power systems, 40,000 gallons of bottled water and enough food to last a week.

Governors Cuomo and Christie declared a state of emergency in New York and New Jersey respectively. The Emergency Operations Centers are open now and evacuations are set to begin in certain areas of NJ and NY today. Sandy has been upgraded again to a category 1 hurricane and forecasters say it will cross paths with two winter weather systems after it hits. The superstorm could bring up to a foot of rain and nearly two feet of snow in West Virginia, eastern Ohio and southern Pennsylvania.

Home care providers can assist their patients and families with evacuation preparedness. You can ensure your patient has a packed bag should an evacuation become necessary. This should include enough medications for at least one week and other essentials. Patients using insulin, for instance, will need a cooler to keep the insulin at the correct temperature. Windows and doors must be secured safely in the home, extended power outages can threaten food safety and limit the supply of oxygen for those on continuous O2.

Patients with limited mobility may not be able to move to a safe area of the home quickly enough or be able to evacuate an area without assistance. Home care providers should communicate with agency directors now to learn of any updates and execute their disaster or emergency plan protocols now. Be safe out there!