This season has brought its fair share of natural disasters including hurricanes, flooding, and fires. The elderly population is especially at risk during these disasters. Care of the elderly during natural disasters has been a topic of conversation since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where the lives of 215 people in nursing homes and hospitals were taken, mainly because the system was not properly prepared to take care of these people. More recently, eight nursing home residents died in Florida during Hurricane Irma. Many elected officials are calling for protective and preventative measures to aid the elderly population during times of crisis.
Research does show that in many cases, evacuation of the elderly can cause more harm than good because they are done quickly and without proper care. Sick, frail and elderly people can be bruised and weakened by having to quickly board a bus, for example. Patients can experience hip fractures by moving from hospital to hospital. Especially with Alzheimer’s patients, moving them to a new place with new people can be detrimental. Of course, if a building is in danger of flood or wind damage, it is best to evacuate. But if it can be avoided, it is better on patient’s health and well-being.
In Colorado, we don’t necessarily have to worry about hurricanes, but there was another natural disaster that affected our state this month and that is forest fires. When dealing with forest fires, there are a few things to do to keep your senior loved one safe.
- Be proactive: There are many things you can do to ensure you are prepared should a natural disaster hit your area.
- Have a plan: An evacuation plan will make the process a lot smoother and easier.
- Pack enough medication (A couple week’s worth is best)
- Have your loved one’s medical records, insurance info, etc in one place
- Don’t wait: If you wait until the last second to evacuate, you’re more likely to be rushed, and the more likely your loved one could be hurt. Rushing often results in mistakes.
If you’re not directly in the path of wildfires, the smoke can also be a huge problem when it comes to the elderly. You can read our post here on how smoke can impact seniors. In order to minimize the effect of smoke on seniors, it is important to keep your loved ones indoors when possible and avoid any excessive physical exertion outdoors.
Natural disasters are devastating to our country, but especially to our vulnerable elderly population. It is important to be prepared and have a plan should you need to evacuate your loved one. If you know an elderly person who may not have family or someone that cares for them, it is important to offer assistance or call local police or fire stations to alert them of someone that may need help.