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Storm Survival: A Cancer Caregiver’s Guide

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, families, friends, and neighbors throughout impacted communities are banding together to help each other rebuild. From cleaning up debris to repairing damages, there are many challenges to overcome in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

For cancer caregivers, a natural disaster means more than safeguarding a home. It also means supporting a loved one in treatment who already feels vulnerable to ensure their health is protected and treatment continues uninterrupted.

Here are a few things you can do as a caregiver to support cancer patients in the event of an emergency evacuation:

Contact the physician

In the event some healthcare facilities are temporarily closed, patients may need interim treatment and care options. Consult with your loved one’s physician to map out “plan b” treatment options in advance. Information regarding clinic hours and closings will be posted continuously on organization websites, so keep phones charged to maintain connectivity. Having an extra battery pack or quick-charge device on hand is a good item to pack in an emergency kit.

Gather and protect important documents

Emergencies are, by definition, unpredictable. If a big storm is forecasted, help a loved one gather health records, insurance policies, key phone numbers, prescription medications along with water and other important items. Refill their prescriptions that are running low. Seal water-vulnerable items in a resealable plastic bag and pack them in a small backpack or tote that can be grabbed and carried easily if a quick departure becomes necessary.

Offer a spare room

While community shelters can offer a safe place for many people in the event of an evacuation, it can often compromise a cancer patient’s health to live in close quarters with others in crowded conditions. Offer a spare bedroom to a loved one, or contact additional friends and family members in the area to see if they can offer a temporary place to stay.

Pick up groceries and essentials

Getting to a store can be hard during and after an emergency. From stores closing or selling out of items to road closures, there are many obstacles that make routine tasks difficult for cancer patients to navigate. When the roads are safe, consider driving your loved one to the store or dropping off relief supplies, such as groceries, toiletries, and essential clothing items.

Give the patient a ride to treatments

Following a natural disaster, patients may not have access to a vehicle or may need to travel further to receive treatment. Offering a ride to get them to and from treatments while they are displaced will reduce stress.

Ask for help

You don’t have to do it all alone. Caregivers often juggle many responsibilities to help patients with their day-to-day activities. In the event of an emergency, reach out to friends and family to help share any responsibilities needed to support the patient for the foreseeable future.