What Can I Do to Help the DC Area First Responders and Healthcare Workers?

Q. My mother, Anna, is in a local nursing home and receives exemplary care from the nurses, doctors, and health aides there. I want to do something to give back to them and to others on the frontline in the DC Metro Area who are risking their lives to help others during the coronavirus pandemic. What are some ways I can give back to the first responders and healthcare workers during this troubling time?

A. In the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic, health care workers, such as those caring for your mother, and first responders such as EMTs, paramedics, and police officers, are risking their lives to protect the lives of others. Many of us who are wisely staying in our homes don’t know what it’s like to be on the frontlines, yet many of us want to do what we can to support first responders and healthcare workers at this time.

To give you an idea of what healthcare heroes and others on the frontlines are experiencing, let’s look at Dr. Stanley Berry, 66, a semi-retired obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancy. In his last year of working a very part time schedule, he answered a desperate plea from the local university hospital and volunteered to be “repurposed” to help coronavirus patients. According to Berry, “If they tell me they need people in the emergency room, that’s where I’ll go. I still know how to listen to lungs and take a medical history and do a physical, so I can contribute there. I don’t know how this is going to play out, because I’m almost 67.”

His friends tried to discourage him from volunteering because of his age. One of my friends was really harsh. His rejoinder was, “What if your wife had to go to the hospital? You’d want someone to take care of her. Somebody has to do it.” Dr. Berry saw three colleagues he knows become infected with COVID-19 and grow gravely ill. However, when it comes to his own health and his chance of getting sick, his attitude is, “It’s on my mind, but I try not to think about it.”
According to Dr. Berry, “I don’t want to die, and I’m not in this to be a hero, but medicine’s been good to me and we’re being clobbered right now. My will is made, so I’m just going to try to follow all the guidelines for wearing personal protective equipment and help.”

A Paramedic Documents a Week in his Life

In another instance, Danny Kim, a former photographer who became a paramedic, kept a diary chronicling one week on the frontline. Danny is in New Jersey, close to NYC, the current epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID-19 ravaged his community, he felt compelled to document it.

Danny gets many calls from seniors and caregivers and others who are anxious. He shows up to people’s homes, trying to convince them to stay home if they’re not critical. Before entering a home, he puts on an N95 mask, then a surgical mask, at least two pairs of gloves, and then a disposable gown. For the sake of risk and equipment, which must be discarded after each call, only one paramedic goes in. “Sometimes there’s nothing you can do,” he explains. “At one nursing home, a woman in her early 90s was already cold to the touch, with signs of rigor.”

The callers who are sick report fever, shortness of breath and persistent dry cough that are symptoms of COVID-19. But the hospital is crowded and thick with the virus, so Danny tries to dissuade them from going to the hospital unless they really need to.

Similar to Dr. Berry, Danny was also “repurposed” into service in the intensive care wards in the hospital. He watched four patients die and consoled a nurse who was breaking down. So far, three of Danny’s colleagues, all older, have tested positive. When a fellow paramedic spiked a fever and got tested, the thought definitely crossed his mind, “(a)m I carrying the virus? Am I bringing it home and exposing my wife to it? I think about that,” Danny says, “but I try not to let that thought consume me while I’m home because that’s my time to not think about everything.”

Danny’s experience reinforced his decision to make a visual record of the work he is doing on the frontline. “I want our story to be told from us directly,” he says.

What You Can Do to Help Frontline Heroes

As you can see, every day, medical workers and other frontline heroes are risking their lives to help coronavirus patients. What can those of us who aren’t on the frontline do to help?

Of course, the most important thing the rest of us can do — as we are constantly reminded of — is to stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19. But many of us are searching for ways to donate our time, our skills, or our money to help. Here are some ideas:

  • Give Blood or Plasma: The American Red Cross is facing the cancellation of thousands of blood drives as social distancing has taken effect. People who are healthy can now schedule an appointment to give blood in the weeks ahead at drives where staffers are checking temperatures, increasing the space between beds and disinfecting surfaces and equipment to keep donors safe. At this time, plasma donations are also being taken from survivors of coronavirus. Doctors are falling back on plasma therapy as one stopgap measure that they hope can help in the lag time before other treatments become available.
  • Meals on Wheels is providing nutritious meals and a lifeline to at-risk seniors, keeping a population that is among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 safe and healthy in their own homes. You can donate to the organization’s national COVID-19 response fund or to your local Meals on Wheels provider.
  • Project HOPE is training and equipping health care workers with the protective gear they need to save lives. The organization is now expanding training in high-risk countries and sending medical supplies and volunteers to some of the hardest hit cities in the U.S.

Here is a list of other ways to help and helpful resources for those in need from WUSA9.

How to Donate Equipment

As you likely know, there’s a nationwide protective face mask shortage. So how can you help? There are two main ways: donating any supplies you already have, or banding with local businesses and individuals who are making cloth masks.

How to Donate Existing Masks

Maybe you have respirators, surgical masks, or other forms of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) on hand, or know someone who does (construction workers, e.g.). Those supplies are desperately needed by healthcare workers. Consider donating through one of these programs (Three Little Birds; Something Vintage; or Carine’s Bridal Atelier.)

  • #GetUsPPE – The site has information for both those who have and those who need PPEs. There is a comprehensive spreadsheet that shows what hospitals need protective equipment and how they’re taking donations.
  • #Findthemasks – The site shows what kinds of protective equipment are needed, and has an interactive map that shows how and where people can donate.
  • #GetMePPE DC Area – If you’re in the DMV and are willing to help with donation efforts like picking up and dropping off masks, fill out this form.
  • MedSupplyDrive – A group of Georgetown medical students have launched a nonprofit to get protective gear to Covid-19 hotspots. The program has volunteer networks in 37 states and the UK. Donate your protective gear or volunteer to help here.

Donate Food to Frontline Workers

A DC charity is working to ensure hospital staffs and first responders don’t have to worry where their next meal will come from during the coronavirus outbreak. Learn more about Feed the Fight here.

Are You a First Responder or Health Care Practitioner? Take advantage of a Special Discount at the Farr Law Firm!

A recent article in Next Avenue explains why it’s so vital to have estate planning and incapacity planning in place during the coronavirus pandemic. Read the article here and see our recent special report on the subject.

First Responders and health care practitioners, in particular, know how important it is to be prepared! To thank them for all they are doing on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic, we would like to extend a special 50% discount to them for the duration of this pandemic for our Level 1 Incapacity Planning, which includes a General Power of Attorney, Real Estate Power of Attorney, our proprietary 4-Needs Advance Medical Directive®, a HIPAA Waiver, Docubank Registration, and more; we are also offering a 50% discount on a Last Will and Testament. Call us to make a virtual or in-office appointment for an initial consultation today at 703-691-1888.

Get Your Planning in Place During this Uncertain Time

At this time, most of us feel uncertain about things. When it comes to uncertainties, don’t let your estate plan be one of them! Here at the Farr Law Firm, we have strategies to help everyone plan for themselves and their loved ones during this uncertain time. With advance planning, each person can retain the income and assets it has taken a lifetime to accumulate, and provide themselves the peace of mind that they are prepared should something happen to them or their loved one.

If you or your loved ones have not done Incapacity Planning or Estate Planning, or if a loved one needs nursing home care or even if your loved one is already in a nursing home, please contact us as soon as possible to make an appointment for an initial consultation. For those who feel safer in their homes, we offer phone appointments or video conference appointments in lieu of in-person meetings (but we are still open for in-person meetings):

Estate Planning Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Estate Planning Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Estate Planning Rockville: 301-519-8041
Estate Planning DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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