This week I had an opportunity to appear on a local news station talking about winter and emergency preparedness for the elderly. Working for the last seven years in providing non-medical home care to the elderly population has taught my husband, myself and our staff a lot. First and foremost, we have become expert weather watchers and secondly we prepared, checked and double checked to be sure our staff is able to get to our clients who need our services no matter what the weather is.

In my news interview I talked about many things to help prepare for bad weather, making sure that the heat was adjusted properly, clients had plenty of clothing for proper layering, warm outer attire, food, water, medications filled so as not to run out and more.

This week my staffing manager did a bang up job. From making sure all caregivers could get to their clients and confirming schedules to ensuring that they had backup caregivers staying overnight in communities that we provide round the clock care for clients. The weather reporters have been salivating over this “storm” all week, so it’s not like it caught any of us by surprise when the first snow flake appeared outside our window.

To my surprise, our staffing manager received an alaring call from our caregiver at 7am on Sunday who had arrived at the client’s Manchester home. The client who is on hospice with a well-known hospice agency had no medications in the med box or anywhere else in the home. This is a responsibility overseen by the hospice agency. An oversight that had happened previously by the same agency and had caused this person to wind up in the hospital.

My staffing manager quickly called both the direct cell phone numbers of the supervising nurse and social worker for the client and left voice mail messages about the lack of medications in the home. She then called the closest relative (also elderly) who lives over 20 miles away to alert them of the situation. This family member contacted the main number of the hospice agency, where she was told they were not familiar with her family member’s case, but that they could see in the notes that the reason the medications were not delivered was because of yesterday’s snow.

Let me say we were taken aback because the 1st real flakes of snow didn’t start in the Manchester area until close to 2:30 or 3:00 pm on Saturday afternoon. The hospice agencies response…that they would try to find out more and see if they could get someone out today to fill the box.

It’s been more than six and a half hours and we still have not heard from the hospice agency. As I type this blog, we will reach out to this hospice care team again.

It shocks me that with as much notice as we all had that they too do not practice a system of preparedness. They had all week that they could have filled his medication box.

Sadly families turn to hospice to be there for the needs of a loved one who is sick. As health care professionals, both medical and non-medical, we all make a commitment to make sure our clients’ needs are met and that we are accountable to them. This is just inexcusable and such an epic fail on their behalf.

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