Seniors and people with disabilities are neglected in the management of natural disasters, Senate Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) said on Thursday at a committee session devoted to the issue.
“It is important that they are included in preparation, response and mitigation,” Casey said during the hearing.
Eighty percent of adults aged 65 and older have at least one chronic condition that can affect their ability to prepare for or recover from the effects of disasters, according to a Senate memo on aging released before the session.
At the same time, the note noted that older people and people with disabilities suffer disproportionate damage during and after disasters compared to their non-disabled peers and are more likely to lose their independence during all phases of disaster management. due to their non-inclusion in the planning and response process.
“People with disabilities and the elderly need to have a seat at the table when we do this planning. The disparities need to be corrected, ”Casey said.
Some of the remedies he would like to see are to ensure that older people and people with disabilities have a voice at every stage of disaster management and that they receive accessible information on disaster planning and ensuring that temporary accommodation is available to them.
These features are included in the legislation it sponsors: the Act on Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion in Disasters, or the REAADI [READY] for the Law on Disasters.
Further help for older people and people with disabilities to cope with natural disasters is included in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill that expands home and community services that could help save lives, he said. he adds.
Citing preparedness as essential for seniors to cope with disasters, Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, ranked on Senate aging on aging, said he had introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Schatz of Hawaii , the [Repeatedly] Flooded Communities Preparedness Act to provide more resources to areas of our that constantly and continuously flood – these are flood prone communities.
Casey and Scott sponsor the FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act to increase food security for elderly Americans and others during emergencies by paving the way for food producers, restaurants and nonprofits for s ” associate with their state and local governments to meet the needs on the ground.
The stream by which the nation is mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters is not inclusive or equitable, said Dr. Sue Ann Bell, assistant professor of nursing at the University of Michigan, who conducts research on disasters and health.
Older people are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, she said, as the loss of basic infrastructure such as loss of electricity or transportation can lead to serious disruption of care, including access to health care. , which can have lasting health impacts.
The situation is worse during a natural disaster evacuation or a power outage for people with dementia, as the consistent administration of medications can be altered and daily routines can be disrupted, the researcher said. in disasters.
Bell said a weakness in natural disaster management for the elderly is that home care is often not included in the healthcare response, where the focus is on hospitals and nursing homes. nurses.
Home care organizations have reported feeling left on their own to care for patients after disasters, where in turn these patients would be left on their own if there was no home care, a- she added.
A Louisiana nursing professor who began her work in disaster management following Hurricane Katrina in 2003 told the Committee on Aging that nearly half of the deaths from the hurricane occurred in the elderly.
“The only lesson we have all learned from the many disasters that have occurred is that people are not equally affected by a disaster,” said Dr Wanda Spurlock of Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge.