Elderly Are Most Vulnerable for Abuse

Elderly are most vulnerable for abuse

Gayle A. Reeves - Thursday, April 19, 2018

           Recent events in Texas and Florida points out how older adults can be at greater risk during emergencies.  Medications, mobility, chronic health issues – all diminish their ability to respond and adapt during a crisis.  If the individual is in a managed living environment, such as Independent Living facility or nursing home, they might have others that will support and bring about help during an emergency.  In fact, the majority of elderly (93%) live in the community-nearly 1/3 live along-which greatly reduces their ability to get the much-needed assistance they might require during a crisis.

             In recent years, officials within the emergency response field, have begun to recognize the need to address the special needs of older adults and other vulnerable populations.  The AARP and the American Medical Association have published a guide titled “We Can Do Better” highlighting the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on older adults.  It focuses attention on the 60 plus population.  The intent is to help close the gaps in emergency response and preparedness for the elderly and special needs populations and improve the protection of older adults, who live in a community setting, during all types of emergencies.

                This documents potential action that can be taken in advance to improve identification, planning, preparedness, and response efforts during emergencies.

               The older adult population is not characterized by age alone. At age 60, services and protections are available under the Older Americans Act (OAA).4 This includes many types of assistance—such as meals, home health services, personal care, and transportation—that help older adults continue to live in their communities.

         Older adults who live within the community may pose more complex issues and challenges for emergency management officials.  Many elderly want to continue to live in their home with assistance of family members or homecare agencies.  When these services are disrupted during an emergency, this support can drastically compromise the self-reliance and independence of community-dwelling older adults. Someone with dementia compounds these issues.  For example, someone who is elderly, living in the upper floors of an apartment, would become extremely vulnerable during an emergency.

Older adults are a diverse group in terms of their physical and mental health, and vulnerability cannot be characterized by age alone.  Increased risk of disease and death during emergencies because of health issues and mobility, along with being not able to obtain needed prescriptions, specialized equipment or care.  When they do not have access to these during an emergency, they are at increased risk of complications and death during an emergency.

Nearly 82% of Medicare beneficiaries have at least one chronic condition, and 64% have multiple conditions.  If older adults are not able to get the medications, equipment, or special care they need, they can be at increased risk of complications and death during an emergency.

If you are interested in obtaining the “We Can Do Better” publication, email AARP at member@aarp.org, or call (1-888-687-2277). Attorney Reeves is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and a VA accredited attorney.  www.gayleareeves.com

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Aging Program 4770 Buford Highway, N.E. Mailstop F-15 Atlanta, GA 30341 Telephone: 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636); TTY: 1-888-232-6348 E-mail: cdcinfo@cdc.gov Web: www.cdc.gov/aging/emergency