Evacuating seniors not for the faint of heart


In that we were all recently impacted by Hurricane Matthew (and will continue to be for some time), I thought it appropriate to acknowledge the employees of all of our CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities) who helped plan, coordinate, implement and actualize the evacuation of those seniors living independently and assisted, as well as those needing long-term care.

For the special individuals who had the responsibility of making it all happen for each community, I cannot thank you enough for such an incredible effort.

It's been such a long time since we've had a mandatory evacuation, which happens to be the two most hated words in the English language if your job description includes creating and carrying out all phases of the process.

The individuals who have this responsibility must have answers to all the questions before they get asked, and, since our last evacuation was 1999, many people involved in this massive undertaking were actually doing it for the very first time.

Leadership was hopeful their best-made plans were plausible and logical, but would it actually work exactly the way it's been scratched out on paper? Matthew gave us a chance to find out.

Preparation for a hurricane evacuation starts months before the storm season starts. All residents must have an evacuation plan, whether they drive their own car to a determined destination, leave with a friend to stay in a hotel not in the storm's path or evacuate en mass via chartered buses organized by their community.

The idea of assisting hundreds of people - each with their own possible physical and mental limitations - onto buses with luggage, medicine, boxed lunches, pets, etc., is an incredible task unto itself. Now, once you get to your location, typically hotel(s), will all of your reserved rooms still be "reserved"?

So what about all the services senior residents expect or need to receive while evacuated? Well, it's the CCRC's staff that made that happen. The list of services ranges from helping with bathing, dressing and giving medications, to getting their food and providing games to play to help make the days go by a little faster.

Some evacuees had opportunities to do some sightseeing and take in some of the local entertainment where they stayed.

I think it's safe to say the evacuation did not go 100 percent according to plan, but from an overall perspective, when obstacles were presented, a viable solution was implemented, and everything worked out just fine. Let's just hope it's at least another 17 years before we hear those two words of woe: "mandatory evacuation."

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head. www.TheSeabrook.com

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