That is a lot of adversity for one to overcome and especially for our Seniors. Chronic diseases are so prevalent among the elderly that 80% have at least one chronic illness, and many elderly individuals have two or more chronic conditions. (*2) Moreover, elders “may also suffer from mobility, cognitive, sensory, social, and economic limitations that can impede their adaptability and ability to function in disasters. (*2) The senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch diminish with age, and loss can be intensified by chronic disease. (*2)
Many Seniors rely on in-home health care workers and when those services are halted, medication schedules can become disrupted or halted altogether. Those that rely on oxygen may lose the ability and access to that oxygen. Even if a portable, battery powered machine is available, once the battery is dead it will be unable to be recharged due power outages. Same goes for those on dialysis that need the use of machines and seek treatment multiple times every week. With power outages and no generator, there is not a way to cool homes and/or businesses and that puts Seniors at risk for heat strokes, heat exhaustion and dehydration. Older adults naturally have a lower volume of water in their bodies and may have conditions or take medications that increase the risk of dehydration. (*3) This means that even minor illnesses, such as infections affecting the lungs or bladder, can result in dehydration in older adults. (*3) After natural disasters, there will always be a trail of destruction left behind that will increase the risk for an unintended fall. As it stands today, every 19 minutes, a Senior adult dies from a fall. (*4) Fallen trees and other debris create fall or tripping hazards for Seniors in pathways they may frequently travel. The situation could be made worse if the disaster were to occur at night and with no, or little lighting, a Senior may not see the trip hazard at all. Lastly, malnutrition becomes a real concern as food prep will present more challenges. Microwaves are easy to operate, and often used to heat meals and reheat leftovers among Seniors and their caregivers. Mass power outages could take weeks, extreme cases could take months, to fix and bring power back online. If Seniors are missing meals because they’re not able to properly prepare the food or the food has ruined in a warm refrigerator, malnutrition can cause a host of problems. Seniors may experience a loss of energy, weakness and loss of stamina that are crucial to maintain when living and surviving in a disaster area. Cognitive function decreases as well as malnutrition and dehydration set in.
If you can evacuate, that is always the best thing to do when a hurricane is bearing down on your town. If you cannot, please consider all that I have written about here and take steps to address each one. Battery powered fans, 30-day supply of medications, plenty of water and MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) are a good place to start. Hopefully, you fortunate and will not face any natural disasters in your lifetime!
Chris R. Williams
- World Vision
- The Hill (Seniors Suffer the Most After a Natural Disaster)
- Mayo Clinic