When you have to let go of someone immediately, or when a regular attendant gets sick or cannot report for duty, having a person or two whom you can call upon in an emergency can keep your life rolling along. The best way to deal with this anxiety-producing situation is to prevent it.

It is highly unlikely that your current staff can be there 24/7. Emergencies happen. Schedules can change because of doctor appointments, child day-care problems, illness, funerals, and other uneasy times in our lives.

Finding a back-up aide isn’t easy. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take time now to create a list of the most important tasks an attendant performs. Flexibility is important, because an emergency aide is often only available for a limited number of hours, and nonessential needs may not be met until you find a full-time aide.
  • Develop a list of people who might be available for emergencies. People you could ask include family and friends; former attendants; people you go to school with, volunteer with, or know from church or social organizations; or other working attendants you know. When you ask if they are willing to help in an emergency situation, find out generally under what conditions or periods of time they would be available. Keep this information handy.
  • Develop a short descriptive letter to recruit emergency back-up attendants to mail out to schools, resident apartment communities, the local Job Service office, grocery stores, and other places where you might place a quick ad.
  • If the people you recruit for emergencies are people you don’t know, take them through your interviewing and training process. Keep their information and availability on your back-up list. You might want to hire them for full-time services in the future.
  • Set aside some extra funding if you can to offer your back-ups a little extra for their time. Remember—if your schedule is disrupted, so is your back-up’s.
  • Update your emergency back-up list every 6 months or so. A brief phone call to see if your sources are still interested and available can save you a lot of frustration when you need someone on short notice. This is especially important because backups who are students have schedules that change every semester.

Another good idea is to keep this list of up-to-date information handy and let your caregivers know where you keep it. I like keeping this information in my wallet. Include the following:

  • Your disability, condition and diagnosis
  • A list of your medications
  • Your medical, food and skin allergies
  • Health conditions that might occur and what to do about them
  • Emergency contact names and numbers of those closest to you
  • Names of your doctor’s hospitals and their telephone numbers
  • Insurance information and related numbers or codes