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What if there is an emergency?

Recent events have been on my mind lately. A good friend spent hours watching firefighters battle a huge blaze in an apartment complex across the street. An area the size of a city block was lost. All the people who lived there lost their homes and belongings. Certain surrounding areas had to be evacuated as well. Others were put on “standby” alerts.

People in the state where I live lost everything when an old dam burst and allowed water from the recreational lake it had created to inundate the subdivision and part of the large sized city just downstream from that location.
People who lived there lost their homes and belongings. Somebody I knew there was without utilities, including water and sewer for several days as the area began to recover.

There are chemical spills, forest and urban fires, floods, earthquakes, violent damaging storms, civil unrest, and many other reasons why people must suddenly leave their homes , evacuate certain areas, and try to begin new lives in places that are strange to them.

Do you have plans for such an emergency? Now is the best time to think about it, as terrifying as it might be.
Emergencies do happen in every part of the world, every day.

Our autistic inflexibility can be an extra problem for us in emergency situations. We can be so shocked by rapidly threatening events that we become ‘frozen’ and unable to act for ourselves. We may not be able to do the things that need to be done quickly in such an emergency if we have not planned and thought about what we would do and made certain things ready “just in case”.

The flood issue struck close to home. We live in an area close to one of the Great Lakes in the USA, and there is a river through the heart of town, much beloved, tamed by no less than 4 dams in regions above town and in the middle of town as well. If one of those dams broke, would/could the others follow? The government agency that inspects the dams says they are reaching the end of their span of usefulness and they are not completely stable. I have been thinking about what we would do here, if there was a flood situation and we had to be evacuated.
We have important papers we would need to take with us. We do not have a trailer or access to one to bring large items with us. By the time we got our files, our pets, our clothing and medications, food and water for 3 days, sleeping bags, etc. we still would have to find a safe place to go, figure out a safe route to get there, and figure out how to proceed to live our lives from there.
I am making a check list and gathering things we might need into one area of our home, and packing up what I can ahead of time.

Something that might help you think about emergency preparedness is the usa government website ready.gov What possible threats are most likely to cause emergency evacuations near you?

I began to prepare for emergencies even before I knew of my autism. I lived in an earthquake prone area in the south of my home state and there had been a lot of publicity about “the big one” – a huge earthquake being possible on a nearby extended-area fault zone which had been inactive for well over a hundred years. I had small children and the stories of possible damage worried me. So I began preparations.

I packed an emergency bag for each family member, one complete change of clothing plus a couple extra socks and underwear, and shoes. Shoes are so important in case of night time evacuations and possibilities of having to walk in areas with broken glass, damaged buildings, down trees, etc..

I remembered to pack clothing that could be used as night clothes in a public sleeping situation. I packed a towel, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc in the emergency bags (these were backpacks). I packed a comfort toy and non perishable snacks in the kids’ bags.

I packed a bag for the pets with collars/ harnesses/ leads, dishes, food enough for 3 days. I packed the contact number for the vet and included letters for “permission for emergency treatment” as well as all health records for the critters.

I packed food and water for 3 days for each family member as well.
I made sure we had copies of our birth certificates, our social security numbers, emergency phone numbers (family, friends, etc we would need to contact in case of emergencies , doctors numbers, health records, records of all the places we paid our household bills, so we could terminate service, ask for extensions or help restoring services, tax records, etc.
Insurance cards and copies of plans plus contact numbers went into the bags, as well as all the contact numbers and account numbers for the bank, credit cards, etc etc.
I got extra prescription drugs for family members and put those in the bags too. I had a little first aid kit and a small radio that ran on batteries, flashlights and extra batteries. I had sleeping bags and blankets and pillows stacked and ready to pick up and put in the car.

I began to be very conscious about the level of gas in my car’s tank.
If we had to evacuate I had seen the television and news articles showing long lines with waits for gas and people’s cars abandoned by the side of the road due to running out of fuel.

Especially if you live in areas that are prone to ‘weather events’ or known hazards, please consider giving yourself a huge advantage by insuring you are ready ahead of time as well as you can be.
Emergencies can happen at any time. They happen to everybody.
Being older and autistic does not mean we can not give ourselves the accommodation of being ready to react and save precious time and perhaps our own and /or our loved ones’ lives.
I do not dwell on scary thoughts surrounding these “what if” scenarios, but I have peace of mind knowing I will know what to do if the time ever comes that I am called on to act and react quickly for safety and well being of my household.
Do you need an emergency plan? How will you respond?

Autism Emergencies

The importance of being prepared.

I can’t say this is about autism specifically, but being autistic and elderly has made interactions with others harder for me than it might be for some people.

In mid March 2020 my husband had a health emergency which took us to the hospital Emergency Room.

In our state of the USA, Covid 19 precautions had just been enacted.

We were screened for that from an isolated hallway, as well as having to give a summary of what my husband’s problems were. We provided proof of insurance and established that I was his spouse, his representative, and his power of attorney for health and everything else.

I was allowed to wait with my husband while he was seen and tested by many different medical people, until he was finally admitted for emergency life saving surgery.
I was allowed to stay while the operation took place and after, I saw him in recovery, and followed him to his room and saw him comfortable. I saw him again early the following morning. At that point rules had changed for Covid Isolation in Hospitals. I got a call saying I could not return to the hospital to be with him.
I was not allowed to see my husband again until he recovered enough for me to pick him up and bring him home. ( I stayed outside of the hospital, in my vehicle, he was brought to my car in a wheelchair).
We were lucky because he came home alive and continues to be well.

Things like this can happen to anybody and at any time!
Some time ago, we had made each other Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of attorney, filled out a living will making each other designated decision maker/ representative if health care decisions were needed and the individual as a patient could not respond for any reason.
We made our wills at the same time.

Today I see we made good decisions to have these issues settled while we were in decent health, decent mental condition, and not in crisis.
We could discuss everything regarding our health issues, willingness to accept life support, choices surrounding “do not resuscitate” orders, etc. We could decide who we wanted to include in our will, how we wanted our “worldly goods” distributed, make special mention of the family special items and who they should go to, etc.

If you are alone and do not have family or spouse or others to speak for you, it is most important that you have these papers showing intent and giving the persons you trust the power to help you through health struggles if you ever need it. Alternatives would be next of kin, no matter how far removed, or to have court appointed guardians or your individual health care providers making decisions regarding your situation on their own. Didn’t want to spend the next 10 years on life support in a coma? Without directives and representatives, you might not get your way.

If you want to assure your best interests, it is important for you to make those choices and decisions for yourself or have available somebody who you trust , and who knows what you want, to help you.

When I was my mother’s caretaker/ representative and we had to travel, I carried copies of all the papers we needed, as listed above, plus her medicare/medicaid/insurance papers and copies of her social security card, a list of her medicines, her meds for the day, a change of clean clothing and other needs all in a backpack that I could put over her wheelchair handles.
When I had to meet the ambulance at the hospital to have her admitted for frequent health crises, I had everything I needed to assure she got the help she needed and was her spokesperson and caretaker while she was in hospital ( Parkinsons’ dementia, autism, etc made it necessary for somebody to be attendant with her at all times.

The point of these illustrations is that we don’t know what the future might bring, but we can make any crisis we experience easier to deal with by preparing ahead. Please consider how you want to be helped, who you want to help you, and what you will and will not want “done to you” in any health crisis. You will have peace of mind and you and your Representative/Power of Attorney will not have to wonder if they did the right thing. You are more likely to get the care you need if you speak up about things that are important to you while you are not in the middle of a crisis.

Just another set of tools you can use.