Disasters Can Severely Impact the Elderly

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Release date: 
July 13, 2011
Release Number: 
1983-046

CLINTON, Miss. -- The losses following Mississippi's April's storms and tornadoes or May's flooding may be magnified for the elderly.

Seniors previously living on their own may find they have to depend on others for food, shelter and the necessities of daily living. Those used to assisted living may face upheaval in their normal routines or a change in their usual caregivers.

Add to that the stress of the disaster itself, and the elderly may be facing very difficult times.

"As we move forward from these devastating disasters, we need to be sensitive to the needs of our seniors," said Danny George, director for the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Aging & Adult Services.

"The most important thing we can do to help the elderly is to let them know they are not alone and connect them with available services to help through these difficult times," said George.

Symptoms of stress unique to the elderly include:

  • Reliving events in their lives when they were traumatized or suffered severe losses.
  • Fear of losing their independence or lack of self-sufficiency.
  • Worry about limited financial resources and time to rebuild.
  • Fear of being put in an institution.
  • Fear of a decline in health and limitations on mobility and ability to rebuild.
  • Withdrawal and isolation from family and friends.

When working with older adults after a disaster, it is important to:

  • Provide consistent verbal reassurance.
  • Assist them in recovering their physical possessions.
  • Return them to familiar surroundings with friends and acquaintances as soon as possible.
  • Make sure they have needed medical and financial assistance.
  • Help them re-establish social networks.
  • Monitor their nutritional and medication needs.

The Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Aging & Adult Services, oversees the administration of statewide programs and services on behalf of Mississippi's elders in partnership with Area Agencies on Aging throughout the state. To learn more about local programs and services for seniors, call 1-800-948-3090 or visit the MDHS, DAAS website at: www.mdhs.state.ms.us.

FEMA will assist anyone with a disability who needs help -- just ask. Call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585.

Additional information about current disasters is available at www.fema.gov, www.msema.org, and www.msdisasterinfo.com.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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