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Frail elderly disaster
Date:5/18/2009

Planning for emergencies must take into account the growing numbers of frail elderly people who will by virtue of shifting demographics be involved in any natural or manmade disaster, according to US researchers writing in the International Journal of Emergency Management.

As the world's population grows and more individuals are living into their 70s, 80s, and 90s, those charged with managing people, resources, and medical care during and after an emergency, whether heat wave, flood, fire, earthquake, or other disaster, will face increasing challenges in addressing the needs of frail elderly people at such times.

Susan Smith and colleagues at the University of Tennessee Safety Center in Knoxville, working with Mary Jane Tremethick at Northern Michigan University, expose the factors affecting the frail elderly during and after an emergency and propose strategies to minimize the impact on this vulnerable group of people.

In 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that it should be a primary goal of emergency management teams to support older people in an emergency, to minimize harm, and to help them maintain the highest possible level of health and functional capacity and to aid them in recovering from a disaster as quickly as possible.

Smith and her colleagues suggest that, in the light of the WHO's statement, rapid response to a crisis must extend beyond the traditional emergency response personnel. In short "age-responsive" actions must be identified and integrated into risk assessments and disaster response plans. They cite recent examples of heat waves in France, Greece, and the USA, and the US 2005 hurricane season, where such an approach may have reduced considerably the number of deaths among the elderly.

The first point that they address is how to define someone as frail elderly and so more at risk than a healthy younger person. "The term 'frail elderly' refers to adults over the age of 60 suff
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Contact: Susan Smith
smsmith@utk.edu
Inderscience Publishers
Source:Eurekalert

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