I hope none of my readers suffered any harm or inconvenience from Hurricane Sandy. Here in the New York metro area we had more devastation that we had ever anticipated. The hurricane also brought to light a lot of new issues on how seniors who receive home care are treated in emergency situations.
Here are few facts that will help you understand the responsibilities of home care agencies in case of a national crisis or natural emergency.
The State Department of Health requires all Certified Home Health Agencies, Long Term Home Health Care Programs, and Hospices to submit an emergency plan that will be activated in case of a hurricane, earthquake or other crisis. At a minimum this plan will assure each client will be safe during the emergency. However the regulation does not state how each agency will carry out this care. An agency’s plan could state that a nearby family member, friend, or other resource like a hospital or care center will take over the care.
In New York, the nurse who evaluates the patient before being assigned to a home care agency will determine the back up care plan for the patient. The nurse will assign each patient a priority code that indicates the degree of care the patient must receive. This information is kept in the patient’s chart along with other personal information.
This is how each patient is categorized.
*A LEVEL 1 patient is a High Priority patient. S/he needs uninterrupted services. In case of a disaster or emergency, the agency must make every possible effort to insure the patient receives care. An example of a level 1 patient is someone who requires life sustaining equipment or medication, someone who needs highly skilled wound care, or an unstable patient with no caregiver or informal support to provide care.
A LEVEL 2 patient is a Moderate Priority patient. At this level, the patient’s care may be postponed with telephone contact. A non-agency caregiver can provide basic care until the emergency situation improves.
A LEVEL 3 patient is a Low Priority patient. This person can safely miss a scheduled visit. Basic care can be provided by family or other informal support or by the patient personally.
If you have a parent or other loved one who receives home care through an agency and you wish to learn the type of care s/he will receive, contact the Individual agency and ask to see the emergency plan report.
*(Source: Home Health Agency Patient Classification Levels (as stated in a DOH Dear Administrator Letter dated May 10, 2005.)