Helping the Most Vulnerable During a Natural Disaster

Helping the Most Vulnerable During a Natural Disaster

The hurricane season in September was a reminder of just how vulnerable the elderly are and can be. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “disasters of all kind affect older adults disproportionately, especially those with chronic diseases, disabilities or conditions that require extra assistance to leave an unsafe area and recover from an event.”

Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and an expert from AARP noted that “roughly 71 percent of the victims were older than 60 and 47 percent were over age 75.” Keep in mind that at the time of Katrina, people aged 60 and older comprised 15% of the population of New Orleans.

A disaster could be a weather-related event—such as a hurricane—an influenza pandemic or even a terrorist attack. Often it may not be the event itself that impacts people, but the after effects such as lingering power outages or cut off access to medications, clean drinking water and exposure to infection.

When it comes to providing regular professional in-home care services to this vulnerable population, there are emergency plans to put into place. In each instance of a disaster, the local office initiates this plan to make sure that not only are clients taken care of, but also caregivers.

In early September, as Hurricane Irma headed north and left trees and power lines down along with flooded areas, one caregiver in an impacted zone took her client with her to evacuate when family could not get to this elderly person.

In Texas, Hurricane Harvey led to major life decisions by some people who had been enjoying a supported independence thanks to in home care. Many families made snap decisions to relocate completely, or were forced to due to significant damage to their own home or that of their family’s. Caregivers need to keep working when the flood waters recede and this is kept in mind by the local owners who have their own business and family to consider during a disaster.

When everyone works together, the elderly and disabled can be adequately cared for in the most challenging of circumstances.

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