San Diego elder care: dealing with displacement in the wake of natural disaster or trauma
By Collen Van Horn, RN, B.S.N., PHN, CCM
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, countless individuals are struggling to rebuild their lives – some of them young and able bodied, others elderly and forced to step aside as fitter, stronger folks perform the heavy lifting. However, as noted in a recent piece for the Huffington Post, caregivers should work to involve seniors in the work of rebuilding in order to avoid deeper trauma, anxiety or depression. And here in San Diego, elder care workers and family members will likely never face a major hurricane; but they may encounter fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters, and should be aware of how to include seniors in the recovery process.
For many seniors, some degree of stress, depression or anxiety – perhaps as a result of advanced age, illness or loss of love ones – is a day-to-day reality. And in the wake of a traumatic event, these symptoms are likely to increase. In addition, those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia may feel heightened confusion if they are displaced from their homes due to an earthquake, fire or similarly disruptive event, making it all the more important for caregivers to help reconnect them with the present. If you are a caregiver, or help manage the care of an aging loved one, the following tips can aid you in weathering the effects of a natural disaster or trauma.
- Encourage connection: if your loved one has been removed from her home, make it easy for her to get in touch with friends, stay up-to-date on the news, and generally remain connected. Especially if the move is permanent, maintaining contact with the old world will help bring about closure.
- Open the lines of communication: talk to seniors about the traumatic event, and encourage them to share their feelings (while of course maintaining respect for personal boundaries and privacy).
- Revive routines: for any displaced individual, and especially for elders with cognitive impairment, reestablishing routines can be crucial to a smooth adjustment. Do your best to keep a schedule similar to that which your parent or loved one kept prior to the event.
- Have fun: facilitate fun activities, especially for those who suffered losses in a natural disaster. If your aging parent enjoyed photography or knitting before losing his or her equipment in a fire, for example, get them some basic supplies to start back up again.
- Get organized: help seniors take stock of losses, make lists of questions and concerns and get insurance information in order to reduce stress and anxiety in the aftermath of a disaster.
Ultimately, any degree of trauma will pose challenges to families – especially those caring for aging loved ones. To learn more about getting help for displaced seniors, or for information on high-quality geriatric care management services in Del Mar that can aid your family in planning for the future, contact us at Innovative Healthcare Consultants today. Visit www.innovativehc.com
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