Three-foot Winter Pile-on a Reminder of Home Care’s Various Emergency Preparedness Roles

While the COVID-19 public health emergency is rightly at the top of our minds, this month’s mid-December nor’easter — which dumped as much as three feet of snow in some parts of New York — offers another tangible reminder of the various ways that home care providers must plan for, and respond to, emergencies.

Access to patients is of utmost priority. Well before reaching a patient’s home to provide necessary services or supports during or after a winter storm, a home health aide, nurse or therapist may need to clear their own path out to a treacherous roadway, only to find that the patient’s own driveway is impassably buried.

Power outages threaten the functioning of life-supporting technologies in the home, and agencies need to account for backup systems and communications protocols to get patients much-needed supplies or help in advance of, during, and/or after a storm, ranging from nutrition to medications.

A winter storm forecast of this order triggers a whole set of logistical preparations in home care: securing needed supplies and preparations for staff who might remain on site in the event of travel dangers, a plan for adjusting patient care shifts and managing staff shortages due to transportation impacts, and other vital considerations.

To learn more about home care’s emergency preparedness role, please see our Primer on Home Care & Hospice Emergency Preparedness in New York State developed by HCA and our partners at the New York State Association of Health Care Providers (HCP) and the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State (HPCANYS).

HCA and partners have also developed a Patient and Family Emergency Preparedness Toolkit that you can share with constituents. It offers general preparedness tips, an emergency supply checklist, guidelines for developing a family emergency communications plan, tips on how to prepare for and respond to power outages, and other resources.