Advocating for the Elderly and Disabled During Catastrophes

Linda Carey-Trusted in Healthcare Marketing

Linda Carey-Trusted in Healthcare Marketing

There is a big call out for advocacy for the elderly and disabled as we have witnessed during Hurricanes Irma and Harvey  Today’s report of seniors dying from heat exposure  in a  Hollywood Florida nursing home, sadly provides the framework for new discussions on aging in America and “what went wrong”. It is chilling to think that “the least of these” were either forgotten about or ignored. That said, how many of us automatically think of these folks and their well being during a catastrophic hurricane, earthquake or “other” situation?

Unless one has a beloved family member in close proximity, it is unlikely that most people are thinking of  these populations during catastrophic weather  conditions or “other” events that may befall us. This is not due to “lack of caring or incompetence”  but truly is a function of inattention or awareness of this population’s needs for advocacy from the general public.

Most people would surely help if they knew that their help was needed and they were physically able to respond.

While the “jury is still out” on this case,   the seniors in the Hollywood Florida nursing home were unable to get themselves out of the facility into the outdoors  to get air. While it was hot on the outside, reports from inside the facility were that it was much hotter.

So, as all the authorities start the proverbial “who done it”and “who is at fault”, the fact remains that these seniors more than likely died as a result of inattention to important life-saving details that are required before a catastrophic hurricane strikes. Back-up generators, sufficient staffing and procedural drills that take place prior to an event may very well go missing in the day-to-day operation of a facility. Obviously, glaring errors have consequences during a tumultuous weather pattern. Yet, nursing homes are teeming with residents who have no visitors EVER and who are largely left to advocate for themselves (if they can).

What are we to learn from this tragic event? Here are some thoughts that may be helpful in thinking ahead of the next hurricane..or earthquake or “other” catastrophic mind-bending event.

  1. Self awareness is the first step to making improvements. If we are unaware of the senior/disabled person’s plight, let’s focus on building our own awareness in our communities.
  2. Know that most nursing homes are largely “locked down” with windows unable to be raised and doors that are password protected. This is not the case for all facilities but certainly the case for many.
  3. Of additional consideration, man senior citizens residing in their homes in our communities, have the facility locked up as tight as “Ft. Knox” for fear of burglary, assault, etc.
  4. Most seniors with co-morbidities in health are not going to fare well in extreme heat.This is true at home or in an institutional setting.
  5. Many seniors are living alone or may have a favorite dog or cat with them which is likely to deter them from seeking alternative accommodations as quickly as perhaps they should. This is because they fear “Scruffy” or “Muffy” will not be welcome. Remember, these are family members…not just pets.
  6. Every community with few exceptions also has physically and mentally handicapped people living in group homes and other institutional care facilities. Showing up and volunteering in such a setting may very well be a good thing do during an emergency.
  7. Helping the “least of these” is what we are called to do in the body of Christ. This alone should be sufficient reason to help the helpless.

Always….with gratitude!

The Healthcare Advisor


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