Evacuating Elders in a Disaster

Follow
Share

Some background:

We, in Fargo, North Dakota (where I live) and Moorhead, Minnesota – cities divided by the Red River of the North, are in a fight of our lives. We thought the worst flood threat was behind us.

In the spring of 1997, record snow melts and a disastrous ice storm in April brought on flooding throughout this flat river valley of rich farmland that was once the bottom of prehistoric Lake Agazzi.

This spring, because of many factors, we are experiencing even higher flood levels. Amazing people from Alaska to Florida, Wisconsin and other areas have shown up to help fight the water. Hampered by more snow and record low temperatures now (which freezes sandbags and keeps the sand from forming tight bonds), these people are working night and day. The crest prediction keeps rising. The biggest problem will be keeping the dikes from breaking as the pressure from the high water sits for most of next week, slowly moving north. Yes, this river moves north.

The dikes get saturated and weak. The pressure is huge. A major break is always possible.

Now for elders and evacuation. In 1997, Ada, Minnesota and Wahpeton (ND)/Breckenridge(MN), which are also divided by the Red River, had ice jams which called for emergency evacuation from nursing homes. The TV footage still haunts me – frail, confused elders being taken out of nursing home windows and put in boats to get them to safety. In my book, a story is told by a daughter whose father was evacuated from an Ada nursing home. For hours, she didn't know where he was. He never fully recovered, mentally.

We, in Fargo, are now evacuating our vulnerable people in case the worst happens and we go under, like Grand Forks, ND did in 1997. It could happen here. Evacuation (or even the thought of it) is emotionally and mentally hard on all of us. People are leaving their homes, not knowing what they will go back to. I haven't had to do this – yet, but the stress is huge.

For you? Think of your elders. What would you do? Whether they are in a nursing home, in an apartment or living with you, what would you pack? What would you do if, because of a hurricane, flood, tornado or fire, you were told you had to move them NOW. The power is cut off. Water must be shut off.

They are already confused. They are frightened. So are you, but you try not to show it. What medications must go with? Is there something small but comforting you could grab? No one wants to think of these things, but they are all too real. They happen.

I'm asking for prayers for our cities; for our elders and sick people who are now being evacuated by ambulances from several states and taken to hospitals in other areas, many miles from home; for people in nursing homes who have been moved to the highest floors, but may have to be take to strange places – without their families; for children who are frightened. I'm asking for prayers for incredible people who come from the safety of their own homes, who leave their jobs and families to come and help strangers.

Pray for us, if you will. I'll keep you updated.
Carol

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.
15

Comments

Show:
I wrote one of my newspaper columns on the evacuation. I mentioned that sometimes just walking into another room will make a person with dementia fearful. They don't recognize the room. Can you imagine people coming (some in uniform) and taking them out of their environment? Everyone was very kind and doing what they were trained to do, but still, just like the exact shoes - there's no way you can logically explain. I can cry now, just thinking about it.

However, I remember seeing the people evacuated by boat in 1997, from nursing homes in cities nearby, and that was truly awful! So, they did what they had to do. FEMA wanted us all to evacuate, but our mayor, tried and true, said “No, we'll go down swinging." And then he said (of the people here), "They won't leave anyway." And people fought the river and won.

I don't know for sure, but I expect our city leaders fought FEMA over evacuating the vulnerable people, too. But after Katrina, FEMA is (rightfully) very cautious. And even our mayor knew we could go under, no matter how hard we fought. It was horribly close. He was one of the people who didn't know where his mother was for a few hours, as she was evacuated from a nursing home. So he didn't play favorites. It was quite a scene.

So, I am not criticizing anyone for the decision. But it still broke my heart. I could just here my dad fighting and crying, "What are you doing with me?" He would have thought he was being taken prisoner of war. I know some of those old veterans likely felt that way. Thank God he wasn’t alive to be put through it.
(0)
Report

That so breaks my heart to think of how confused he was. I saw upset my dad was when I took a pair of tennis shoes that had holes in them. He was crying begging me not to take them while he had an EXACT new pair on his feet. I cried then. This just devastates my heart.
(0)
Report

Hi Mitzi,
There was one gentleman who died, and it was thought the trauma pushed him over the edge. The fact that he died isn't so bad, as he was close anyway, but how sad it is that he couldn't have been in a room he was used to, close to his loved ones.

People are settling down, and we didn't have to do a second evacuation for the second crest (thank God). So, it's better now. But I felt so bad for all of those people, and many who are elderly and living in subsidized housing had to find money for motels. This was hard on everyone, but as with so many things, it was hardest on our elders.

Thanks so much for asking.
Carol
(0)
Report

Now that it is the beginning of May, how have things been going with all of this? My heart just cried at the thought of how confused my own dad would be and trying to help him without him having a clue! (sigh) That just brings me to tears thinking about it. My prayers for everyone's safety.
(0)
Report

My next door neighbors who own and operate an Adult Foster Care home have been practicing fire drills on a monthly basis. In the early morning hours yesterday, while all were sleeping, a fire broke out in their basement. The fire alarm sounded, woke the owners, who sprang into action, waking the residents and guiding them to safety. It might do us well to practice this same procedure in our homes, because one never knows what a day may bring forth. Thank God that 8 lives were spared, because they were prepared in case of emergency, and had an evacuation plan in place.
(0)
Report

Thanks for your kind words, Cat, and also for underscoring the need to talk to facility administrators about disaster planning. The last time we had a flood of this magnitude, there was no plan in place. This has been very hard on elders and families (our mayor wasn't even sure where his mother was for awhile!). But, if they didn't evacuate and the dikes give way, then what?

There is no easy answer and this wasn't done lightly. Things are looking better now, but we won't be out of the woods for a week or more - and guess what? We are now getting a blizzard on top of it, with many inches of new snow, plus wind. Pray the wind stays down, as high wind stirs up the water and weakens the dikes.

That said, I think we'll be okay. Tons of hard work and lots of prayer have gone into this fight. If people do want to donate, The Red Cross or Salvation Army are good places. If they set up a special fund for flood victims, I'll pass it on. That is likely, after things get settled.

That shooting is really frightening! How horrible for those people.

Again, blessings, Cat. You are such a gift to this site.

Carol
(0)
Report

Dear Carol,

You are the strongest woman I know - I hope you are taking care of yourself too.
You have given everyone alot to think about. I pray you and everyone in ND stays as safe as possible for the duration of the emergency. As a member of our local Red Cross DAT and CERT (community emergency response team) I have participated in drills at healthcare and LTC facilities & understand the magnitude of disaster planning on a personal level. lease let us know what you may need and what agency we can send donations through.

Another note today we saw on the news that a shooter went on a rampage at a SNF in NC killing residents and a nurse as well as injuring others. I hope everyone who participates on this board not only helps with relief efforts for ND - but considers putting a disaster plan in place for themself and family and makes the time to attend at least one training class. For those who have family in facilities, now is also the time to ask administrators about safety and disaster drills, and ask to be involved in their in-service training for drills.
(0)
Report

I just now read your posts Carol. My heart goes out to all that have to face this crisis. And you are so right about being prepared for any disaster. A lot of us don't think about it until it is too late. I know, even though I live in the mountains where we have had many fires up here, I still am not 100% prepared like I should be. Hugs and prayers to you! Nauseated
(0)
Report

Thanks for keeping us posted. Take care Carol. Blessings, Anne
(0)
Report

We're still dry in the main city, but most nursing homes evacuated. If the dikes hold all week, then people will complain that they evacuated these vulnerable people and didn't need to. But if we go under, then if would be the "right" decision.

You're right that this isn't news to many people - they have their own problems. But thinking of what to do in a disaster is important for all of us taking care of vulnerable people.

Take care, Anne. We're hanging in. The River crested today, and we'll be at high alert for a good week. But the Guard is here, and that helps a lot.

Blessings,
Carol
(0)
Report

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.
Related
Questions