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After a disaster or emergency, it’s important to support older adults. Make time to offer practical and emotional help and be mindful of special needs that older adults might have. A combination of health and family issues, money problems, and increased stress may lower their ability to cope.
Remember that not all older adults need help. Older adults are not all the same and will have different reactions to the disaster or emergency.
Older adults can be very supportive after a disaster or emergency. Most have the knowledge and life experience to help others cope. Let older adults know how they can participate in relief efforts and welcome them. Focus on their strengths and abilities. They can be great volunteers and volunteering is a good way for older adults to feel more connected to communities and to make new friends.
Some older adults have past life experiences that can help them to cope with hard times and stress after a disaster or emergency. For others, the disaster may bring back memories that can make it harder to cope.
Older adults may be less likely to recognize or talk about their feelings. Instead, you might see emotional reactions to a disaster or emergency showing up as physical aches and pains.
Changes in daily routines caused by disasters or emergencies may cause increased stress, coping issues, confusion, unhappiness, and anxiety, especially for older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Some older adults may need extra help, like those who:
Everyone responds differently after a disaster or emergency. The signs of stress listed below are common after a disaster or emergency. Usually, these reactions get better over time.
Support is available. Talk with your healthcare provider or call Health Link at 811 if you’re caring for an older adult and are worried about any changes or signs of stress that you see.
If you or an older adult are having suicidal thoughts, go to the nearest emergency department or call 911 right away.
Call Health Link at 811 to speak to a registered nurse.
Help is available. Most of the phone numbers below offer telephone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The hours for text messaging support or online chats may be different.
Adapted from Mental Health Promotion & Illness Prevention Team, Alberta Health Services.
To see this information online and learn more, visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=custom.ab_recoverypostdisasteremergency_seniors_ac.
For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.
Current as of: July 21, 2022
Author: Emergency/Disaster Management, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.