Our city continues to dig itself out of the worst weather situation in modern memory. Hurricane Sandy tore through our area with a vengence last week, decimating areas near the water and leaving millions struggling to slowly re-gain a sense of normalcy. At these times, the elder law attorneys at our firm remind local residents to keep a close eye on all friends and family members who might need a little extra support following this disaster: our seniors.
These sorts of weather-event are hard on everyone. But they are particularly risky for vulnerable seniors, many of whom rely on nursing care and at-home support to get by each day. For these elderly community members, even going to the store requires significant work, and so it is was not easy for them to take all of the steps to prepare for the disaster and stock up for the long clean-up afterwards. This is true both for seniors who live at home as well as those who are in assisted-living facilities.
Unfortunately, some stories have already rolled out regarding some evacuation problems with a few nursing homes right near the harbor. According to reports in the Huffington Post, at least six facilities in the must-evacuate zone were actually told by city officials to stay in the nursing home. A caregiver explained afterwards that it was incredibly scary, as all residents were forced onto the higher floors with flooding taking over the lower levels. The flooding took out some back-up generators, and so the residents and nursing home staff members have had quite a time piecing things together following the storm.
The director of Geriatric Education at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article that dementia partient were particularly at risk during the storm. That is beacause their caregivers were unable to travel to them during the oreal. She explained that “some of those who care for the elderly were unable to get to their homes because of their own transportation issues.” As a result, these patients were “left alone without any help and that becomes a major, major problem.”
In addition, the WSJ story touched on the struggles that seniors across the state have had coping with the diaster. The areas still without power present unique. Many remain stuck in their homes without heat, struggling to ration the food they have left and stay warm. The president of the tenents association at a local senior center explained that many are using their gas stoves to stay warm, she noted that, ” “It’s dangerous, but if you don’t turn your stove on, you’ve got pneumonia.”
Many social workers, volunteers, and other senior care advocates are working to provide extra support to these seniors, but it is likely that some vulnerable residents are slipping through the cracks. Some seniors remain isolated from others, and they are particularly at-risk of serious harm in the aftermath of Sandy. If you suspect that any elderly community members near you might not be receiving the care he or she needs, please take a moment to check on the resident or call local advocates to ensure their well-being.
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