Possible Hurricane Irma evacuation presents challenges for elderly, disabled
"Lift up the patient. Put them in the wheelchair. Take them out of the wheelchair. Put them in the bed."
Inside his small West Ashley apartment Wednesday, Joseph Balitzki explained the complications of taking care of his aging mother.
"This opening helps me position it under her," he said, holding a cloth material over his mother as she lays in bed.
The living room is now a bedroom. And it’s filled with special equipment.
"The best thing for me to do is to fasten all the straps," he explains.
At 99-years-old, Deolinda Balitzki stays in bed around the clock. It’s one of the reasons why her son says officials wouldn't allow them to enter an evacuation shelter during Hurricane Matthew. So they stayed at home.
"I did what I could. But I was all alone. We had nowhere to go. We had no electricity. And so we had to just wait it out," he recalled.
Joseph says evacuation shelters aren't equipped for people with special needs like his mom. And they can't afford a car to haul this hoyer lift which manuevers Deolinda from her bed to a wheelchair.
"For the benefit of all of the families out there that have somebody that is bed bound, we have to have an option. If they want us to leave, we have to have a place to go," he said.
For now, Joseph will care for his mother at their cramped apartment. They hope department of health officials respond to their concerns about helping evacuees unable to care for themselves.
"A lot of families have somebody that's at home, they're in bed, and if they need to leave I don't know where they're going to go," Balitzski said.
ABC News 4 has reached out to DHEC officials in Charleston and Columbia to find out what's available to help evacuees who have special needs. No one has returned our calls.