No matter how intentional you are about fulfilling your mission and values during the normal day-to-day, crisis can throw an organization into a tailspin, and it’s easy for certain characteristics or procedures to be lost in the fray. Though there are many possible reasons disaster can strike, weather-related crises are perhaps the most all-encompassing. In the wake of the destruction of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many organizations were left reeling as they attempted to keep things running as smoothly and as safely as possible.
Disasters like hurricanes are particularly challenging for post-acute and senior living facilities, as elderly residents often have limited mobility and additional logistical challenges when evacuating is necessary, like medical equipment or wheelchairs. Even dementia can create added complications when attempting to prepare for such an event, hindering the ability to plan ahead or keep patients calm in an escalating situation. Traveling can be traumatic for any patient even in non-disaster scenarios, but particularly for long-term and elderly patients.
For these facilities, leadership must go above and beyond simply keeping patients safe during the crisis to continue to meet emotional and relational needs as well. As people in long-term care and senior living facilities make up a vulnerable population, the utmost care must be taken to keep them comfortable and feeling safe. Resources can also become scarce for those who rely on services for transportation, food and medication, when organizations shut down during a weather crisis. Florida is home to more than 5.2 million senior citizens — one of the highest state elderly populations in the U.S. Because of this and their likelihood to experience hurricanes, Florida senior living centers were, for the most part, prepared for the crisis — even when it came to emotional health.
Though disaster preparedness is state mandated for senior living centers in Florida, one center in Miami, Fl. called My New Oasis thought creatively about how to go beyond physical safety and embody the organization’s mission. The staff there decided to turn off the news on the televisions and switch to comedies instead to keep the patients from dwelling on worst-case scenarios — particularly for those with dementia, the owner told Huffington Post. It’s these kinds of decisions that bring quality of care to the next level in a crisis, keeping in mind the ultimate values of the organization and how they can be achieved on in a practical way, even when the circumstances are less than ideal.
Regardless of what disasters may occur, whether they are expected and can be prepared for or take an organization by surprise, keeping core values front and center and reminding leadership and staff of your identity is crucial. Compassion, hard work and responsiveness go a long way and can reflect back on the motivation for everything your organization does: serving God.