Emergency planning and recovery for carers

Emergency planning and recovery for carers

Recent extreme weather events across NSW, including drought, bushfire, heatwaves, flooding and thunderstorms have posed practical challenges and considerable stress for many carers and the people they care for. Some carers have had trouble accessing necessary medication for the person they care for, placing their health at risk, while others have faced significant barriers to evacuating their family safely due to mobility limitations and unprepared infrastructure.

With extreme weather events and natural disasters increasing in scale and frequency, it is important for all NSW residents to plan ahead for emergency situations, especially when we have others who depend on our assistance. Below are some things to consider in preparing and responding to a natural disaster.

Being prepared

Knowing the risks

It is important to be aware of the conditions and natural risks in your local area. NSW Rural Fire Service have multiple ways to stay updated in the event of a fire, and the Live Traffic NSW website or mobile app provide updates on road closures. Speak with your local council or emergency services, including NSW State Emergency Service (SES) on 138 737. Consider contacting the NSW Rural Fire Service AIDER Program – they provide a one off, free bush fire hazard reduction service for people living with disability or frailty, in areas at risk of bushfire. 

Making a plan

Complete an emergency plan with the person you care for, considering the natural risks and the supports required in case of emergency. The plan should include information about the social and communication needs of the person you support and also capture management of health and medications, including what would happen if a disaster prevented access to the pharmacy or doctor, and any assistive technology used to aid function or mobility. The Carer Gateway website has an Emergency Care Plan that may help you capture all the key details.

When planning for emergencies, don’t forget to consider your own needs, including what support you require to ensure your own safety and wellbeing. It is recommended that you include any informal supports or services that you and your care recipient access, and consider what would happen in the event that you are separated from the person you care for.

Another useful tool is the University of Sydney’s Person Centred Emergency Preparedness (PCEP) Tool which could be used with the person you care for. There is also a Carer Guide and Carer Flip book developed by the Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration, specifically for carers of people living with Dementia. More general emergency planning guides can be accessed through Red Cross who provide a RediPlan guide and have a free mobile app, and on the NSW SES website at their Home Emergency Plan.

Recovering after a natural disaster

Looking after yourself

Experiencing a natural disaster can be traumatic, and feeling overwhelmed is normal particularly when you have to consider continuing to provide care, whilst addressing any loss or damage you may have incurred. It is important to be aware of the emotional supports available. You can speak with your GP about accessing a counsellor, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Accommodation support

If you require urgent accommodation, social housing providers assist with access to temporary and emergency accommodation, or financial assistance to secure a rental property. If you require support after hours, contact the Department of Communities and Justice Housing Contact Centre on 1800 422 322 or Link2Home on 1800 152 152 – both services are available 24/7. Visit the Government Office of Emergency Management website or call the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444 (8:30am-4:30pm) for information about evacuation centres and disaster welfare assistance points.

It is important to know your rights if you are renting. If you cannot live in the property due to damage caused by the disaster, you do not have to pay rent. If your rental property is damaged but you can still live in it, the landlord should reduce the rent and urgently repair the property. Fair Trading provide more information on your rental rights.  You can contact Tenants Advocacy Service if you are not satisfied with your landlord’s response.

Medications

If you have lost medications, prescriptions or healthcare cards you may still be able to access the medications that you or your care recipient require. NSW Health has provided guidance and information on managing medication during and after a bushfire. NSW pharmacists can supply people affected by the bushfires with medicines without a prescription when a pharmacist is satisfied there is an immediate therapeutic need and obtaining a prescription is impractical. 

Disability services

The NDIS has enacted its Crisis and Recovery processes ensuring that participants in impacted areas have the resources they need. Participants directly affected by the bushfires are being prioritised so they can continue to receive their disability support. Call the Contact Centre on 1800 800 110.

If you need urgent Assistive Technology repairs call the Contact Centre on 1800 800 110. The Contact Centre will authorise repairs even if you do not have appropriate funding. 

Legal information

Following a disaster, you can contact LawAccess NSW Disaster Response Hotline on 1800 801 529 for support. Legal Aid provide free fact sheets available online, including information on getting help after a disaster, knowing your rights following a bushfire, and writing to your insurer. 

Financial support

If you have financial loans or a credit card, contact your bank or credit provider, who should take your circumstances into consideration. You can also speak with your bank’s hardship department, or with a financial counsellor on 1800 007 007. If you are not satisfied with the response from your bank, you can contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority on 1800 931 678.

You may be eligible for a disaster relief grant or disaster assistance – visit the NSW Government  Office of Emergency Management website for information about eligibility and application. You may also be eligible for the Disaster Recovery Payment or an emergency payment from Centrelink. Call or visit your local Centrelink branch to discuss this option.

Flexibility at work

Following a disaster, you may need to take time off work due to illness, caring, or to spend time assisting with disaster relief. Your workplace rights will depend on your area of employment, however your employer must consider your request for flexibility or leave. Visit the Legal Aid website for detailed information about your specific workplace rights. If you are not satisfied with the response from your workplace, you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94.

While it’s important to be prepared, we hope you don’t need to actively carry out your emergency plans and we wish you, your families and friends a safe year ahead.

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Carers NSW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land, Elders past and present and all Aboriginal people.