The following is a guest post by Roger Noyes, Communications Director for the Home Care Association of New York State, which represents approximately 400 home care providers throughout the state.
During major weather-related disasters, like Hurricane Sandy, home health care service providers play a crucial - yet often unsung - role ensuring that vulnerable patients get the care and support they need in times of crisis.
Nowhere else was this more evident than in New York City, which this week has been gripped by widespread flooding and power outages, evacuations of coastal and low-lying areas, and the suspension of vital public transportation services.
Front-line home health care service providers are especially well positioned, equipped, and prepared to assist in surveillance, evacuation, and outreach efforts during events like these - in large part because their staff are intimately involved in the lives of people in the community. These agencies serve the medical, social, therapeutic and assistive needs of some of the most vulnerable patients every day. This includes the frail-elderly, persons with disabilities, and the chronically ill. And agencies know the individual needs of thousands of people under their care, including those who may require electricity for life-sustaining home medical equipment during a power outage or who otherwise require assistance to exit an unsafe situation.
Over the past several days, as Hurricane Sandy swept across the eastern United States, we have heard some remarkable stories from home care providers, especially in densely populated New York City, about the work of their organizations and staff in response to the crisis.
Take, for instance, Brooklyn-based VIP Certified Health Services which oversees care for 500 patients in Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County. Even before the Hurricane struck, VIP Certified Health Services put its emergency operations in place, contacting patients to find out about family caregiver availability, alerting patients of possible evacuation orders, and ensuring that those patients needing special services had seen a nurse or other trained caregiver in advance of the storm to assess whether the patient could shelter in place at home or would need help relocating to a formal setting.
Particularly heroic were the actions of VIP's nursing staff, including Sergey Nazarenko, RN; Patricia Dupree, RN; and Igor Fridman, RN. On Tuesday, Mr. Nazarenko arrived at an assisted living center in Brooklyn that serves individuals with mental or developmental disabilities to check in on five of VIP's patients who reside there. The patients are insulin-dependent; but knee-high flooding at the center had contaminated its insulin supply. Knowing the patients desperately needed their insulin treatments, Mr. Nazarenko assisted his patients in relocating to another facility in Queens, where they could get the insulin they needed, while also assisting with evacuation of the center's other 160 residents.
At the Queens center, Ms. Dupree took over in assessing VIP's five patients. Three of these patients, she found, were in need hospital care, which she arranged. Without any previous knowledge or history of these patients in transit to the new Queens facility, Ms. Dupree agreed without hesitation to assist.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fridman was called to the home of a VIP patient on Coney Island whose building was without power and elevator service. He scrambled up twenty flights of stairs to ensure the patient had the life-saving insulin treatment he needed. He also made sure the patient had support from his neighbors. Mr. Fridman knew the neighbors would be a critical help; after all, he had previously educated them to assist his patient in between home care visits.
These are just a few of the stories we are hearing from home care providers who are working with emergency management officials to identify and contact patients in need of evacuation or assistance and are ensuring that patients get the services they need during times of crisis. As home care providers and staff regroup from this storm, no doubt we will be hearing more stories about the heroism of nurses, therapists, aides and other front-line staff.
With the approach of National Home Care Month in November, these stories are certainly a testament to the great value of home care in meeting the community's needs. Learn more here.
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