A disaster may vary by size and intensity, tornado, hurricane, or earthquake. However, the direct effect to a senior (due to evacuations, loss of care and home) is detrimental on their quality of life.
- Evacuations effect and disrupt their daily activities.
- Assisted living, long-term care facilities and caregivers have clients who may be immobile, require medical equipment, medications and nursing care.
- There is jtress does not magnify the issues already being dealt with by both patient and caregiver.
- The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations identified evacuations and multiple transfers as a major problem for seniors i.e. wildfires in Southern California and New Orleans.
Consequently, family caregivers or facilities must be well versed in the specifics of an evacuation plan. There may be an existing plan. However, the key is who knows how to implement it? Who is the go-to person if a disaster hits? Has there been a formal run-through of the plan? The key is not only knowledge but also preparation, which will ensure effective responses during times of disaster.
There is nothing worse to have both the senior and the caregiver be unprepared. As a result they suffer emotional consequences after a disaster because their fear level was increased and their knowledge of what do was low.
Also, it’s common for seniors, who may be living alone, with chronic health conditions or disabilities to stay at home. They are unwilling or less likely to evacuate than those in good health. Usually, they will succumb to the disaster or, if they do survive, they face further health issues during a ‘forced’ evacuation because they are unable to bear the heat, cold or dampness or stress.
Additionally, seniors face an increase in health problems because their asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure has become unmanageable due to the inability to obtain medication and treatment. Therefore, it is important for all of us to realize the dangers seniors are in.
Unfortunately, resources are limited. Consequently, those seniors living in isolation, poverty or chronic diseases will have a hard time locating help. Additionally, many times after a disaster they are in need of even more support. The socially and more geographically connected seniors with a wealthier network of family and friends have access to better services.
Therefore, they are more resilient in disastrous events than the impoverished.
How is your loved one today? What about tomorrow? What is your evacuation plan? If your parent resides in a facility, do they have a plan? If you work in a facility, what is the plan? Where will they take your loved one? Remember that cell phones and communications may be down!
Here in the Northeast we may not always consider the toll natural disasters leave in their wakes, because we rarely have huge forest fires, tornadoes or earthquakes.
However, we must ensure the safety of our seniors. Therefore, discuss with the federal, state and community leaders, as well as those members of our family and facilities to promote good senior care and increase resources available to them. It is most important, especially this upcoming election year, that we keep these discussions of senior safety and accountability open and in the forefront so there will be decisive solutions made before a tragedy occurs.