Having to be in a hospital for an illness or injury is cause for concern enough, imagine being admitted because of an ailment during a disaster situation. Now take a child and place them in that scenario, the mind races trying to comprehend the state that young patient must be in, the worry, concern and feeling of utter hopelessness. This type of situation calls for putting the “care” in caregiver. Simply treating the reason for them being there isn’t going to be good enough. They need to be treated not as a patient but as a human. Healing all wounds not only the body but mind and soul as well. Below are some great tools on how to handle the emotional aspect of being in a traumatic situation.
Love, comfort, listening and understanding are just a few needs caregivers can provide during a disaster. However, depending on the severity of the disaster there may not be enough caregivers to provide that emotional support. So, what are some tools the healthcare facility can implement to help these young patients comfort themselves or at least distract them from all the chaos going on around them? Each age level will have different activities that he or she can perform.
Infants – Comforting by physical touch will be the main emotional bonding.
Children ages 2 and up will be able to participate in some of the following activities below.
Have items in the healthcare disaster supplies that will present the children options. Such as coloring, using stickers, writing in a journal, playing board games, reading books, etc. These will provide entertainment and mental relief.
Food is usually another trigger point that can bring comfort to kids in the mist of confusion. Make sure the facility picks food that tastes great, Mountain House has been awarded with providing some of the best tasting disaster food on the market, it also has a long-lasting shelf life of 30 years. Check the menu for kid friendly foods such as juice, fruits, mac and cheese, Chili Mac, Spaghetti, etc. The Medi-Meal program that we provide kids, have friendly prints and activities on all tray tickets that are given to the patient when the meal is served. Visually looking at something familiar may be a useful distraction for the kids and draw their focus away from worrisome situation they currently find themselves in. The food can be prepared in the #10 can by just adding water, making it easy for the healthcare workers and free up time for other things or patients that need their attention.
People often forget the power of helping others as part of healing. If patients are safe and don’t have an illness that can be contagious, having them provide support for each other during a disaster is such an empowering experience. Once you take the focus off yourself, most fear tends to dissipate because the focus is now on something or someone else. Helping others can give children a sense of control and security and promote a helping behavior. Include children in volunteer activities (once it is safe to do so). Helping people who are in need can bring about a positive outlook and make the disaster less traumatic.
Watch Your Own Behavior
Children will learn how to deal with these events watching your response. Kids are intuitive and more likely to pick up what you’re doing then what you’re saying. This creates an opportunity to teach the children that we all need to help each other.
There are so many great resources to better prepare and plan for these little ones during a disaster. Hopefully some of these tips will be used as a guide to spark some creativity on how we can all continue to work together when preparing for a disaster in a healthcare setting.