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Personal Support Network:Emergency Planning for Seniors and People with Disabilities

Updated on July 2, 2017


Emergencies are not always life-threatening but they can be exhausting and frustrating even when you have planned and prepared for them. Finding yourself in the middle of one with no preparation can really push the boundaries of anyone's ability to cope.

Seniors and people with disabilities must be particularly vigilant and well prepared. The nature of our personal situations can really limit our ability to respond to the unexpected. Emergency planning isn't particularly difficult or time-consuming. It does require some thought and information gathering.

This hub should get you started on the planning process. It covers personal support networks. Generally, there are three types of support networks, but this can vary depending on individual circumstances.

I will cover each network in a separate hub for easy reading. Check the links at the bottom of this hub well as the ones contained in the emergency planning group.

Establishing support networks are, to my mind, the most important step anyone, disabled or not, can take to be safe. A support network is a group of people and organizations you can depend on to assist you in an emergency.

For the most part, everyone already has some informal support networks. We usually call them friends and family. Unfortunately, many seniors and people with disabilities must be more proactive and directed when thinking about who they're going to call in an emergency.

Personal Support Network

These are the people willing to assist you with personal care or emergencies that are unique to you. We are all individuals and although we might share a diagnosis, the specifics of our physical condition are different.

You need to set up two backup plans for any set of circumstances that would constitute an emergency for you.

For example, if I'm at work and my evening driver is suddenly unavailable, how do I get home?

  • Is public transportation an option?
  • Do I have one or two backup drivers that I can call at a moment’s notice?

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What Happens When ...

What happens if my wheelchair accessible vehicle blows a transmission in the middle of evening rush hour? Rollbacks and tow trucks will not allow you to ride in the back of your van while they are towing it to a garage.

  • Are there rental wheelchair accessible vans available?
  • Do I know anyone with a van that could come get me?
  • Could I call a couple of people to move me from my wheelchair into a regular vehicle?
  • How do I get out of that vehicle when I get home?
  • Do I have a backup wheelchair if I need to leave mine someplace?

What do I do when my morning personal care assistant calls in sick?

  • What do I do when my backup personal care assistant is out of town and unavailable?
  • How I get ready for work?
  • Will a neighbor or friend be available to help me with my bathing and dressing?
  • Is there a local company that places personal care assistants, nurse’s aides, and nurses? (I warn you that you will probably have to register with them beforehand and they will be expensive. It would be a last resort.)

Two Plans

Experience has taught me to always have two backup plans. More can be accomplished calmly than in a panicked state. I make sure all my backup people have the telephone numbers of my other backup people. I even have brief training sessions where those available to me can watch my general routine for an hour or so to get some idea of what kind of help I might need.

Discuss and demonstrate what you will need thoroughly. Now is not the time to be shy. This also helps weed out well-meaning folks who would like to help but are, in actuality, useless. Some aren't strong enough. Some are squeamish about personal care. Some are just clueless. Some want to be there but never quite manage to be available when you need them.

No amount of planning will prepare you for every emergency. There is always one that you don't see coming but taking some steps should make most of your problems easier to deal with.

Be sure to read the next hub in this series, Emergency Support Networks.


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    • Georzetta profile image

      Georzetta Ratcliffe 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      That is so true!

    • WinterBlues profile image

      WinterBlues 6 years ago

      Good article.

      Sometimes the planning is the easy part. Having the conversation regarding planning for unforeseen circumstances can be very difficult and trying.