I’m willing to bet that as a parent of child impacted by a disability, you have had to navigate your way through many unplanned events and crises. Some of them may even have been life threatening or serious enough to warrant calling 9-1-1.
It’s safe to say that during the stress of an actual emergency is NOT the time to figure out your response. Most of us under pressure often make poor decisions if we haven’t prepared ourselves. And if it can happen to you, it can happen to your Caregiver, too, which can lead to some unwanted outcomes that no one wants. Helping your Caregiver prepare for an emergency is really part of the training you should provide after hiring the person.
To help you help them, here are some simple rules of thumb (RT):
DO NOT expect or assume your Caregiver knows what to do. Even though they may have lots of experience in emergency situations, I expect there are specific aspects about your home or your child’s situation that they wouldn’t necessarily know. Whatever those are, write them down. If you haven’t thought those through in your mind yet, start now.
Be clear on what steps to take and when. Having clear, easy to understand, instructions will make for better and more predictable outcomes.
As you write down your step-by-step instructions, think about these conditions:
1 – When should they call 9-1-1?
Something like, “whenever this happens, do this …” is a way to phrase it. It’s probably better to err on the side of calling for help if you’re not sure how to describe the conditions. You can always fine tune it later.
2 – When should they call you?
As part of maintaining a great relationship with your Caregiver, you should always be just a phone call away. But for an emergency, or any uncomfortable situation, you can establish simple triggers that your Caregiver can use to reach you. As an example, if Ben’s caregiver wants to FaceTime with us, we always answer the call because that’s their sign to say there’s something wrong. We use FaceTime as a way to help assess what’s going on. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to help them make the right decision.
3 – What should they do in different settings?
If they’re in a public place with your child, and an emergency happens, you likely don’t want them to draw attention that your child is in trouble. We learned this the hard way. The first time Ben had a seizure in high school, the staff panicked. Within a few minutes, firefighters in full gear burst into the school followed by the blaring lights and siren of an ambulance. After we arrived, Ben had settled but we had to sign a waiver to accept responsibility not to transport him to the ER. Calling 9-1-1 was the right thing to do in that case, but there were other ways to handle it more discreetly and not embarrass Ben.
4 – What should they do if you’re not close by?
Obviously, closeness is a relative term. When we lived in Toronto, it would take me over an hour to get home from work. An hour’s journey from where we live now is actually a whole city away. So you need to figure out what steps to follow depending on how quickly you could make it home.
Don’t make things complicated. Keep the instructions simple and logical, and your Caregiver will have an easy time learning them.
Don’t worry about perfection. Everything works on paper. Until you actually have to use you’re “emergency” instructions, you won’t really know if you’ve thought of everything. After the dust settles, go back and see what worked, what improvements could be made, even how to simplify things.
The best way to handle an emergency is be prepared. If you haven’t thought about any of this, mark on your calendar now when you’re going to start. On the other hand, if you feel well prepared, mark on your calendar when you’re going to review the instructions with your caregiver.
Make the commitment. Get organized. And you’ll feel ready for just about anything.
If you want to learn more, watch our 19-tips bonus caregiver training.
-- Mike --