This book provides a tool kit for helping professions responding to vulnerable populations and preparing populations prior to a disaster. Some populations are more vulnerable to the effects of a disaster than others, making it more difficult for them to prepare, evacuate, shelter, respond, and recover in the event of a disaster or emergency. Considering the needs of these groups requires special knowledge essential to preparedness, response, and recovery planning. In circumstances where there is mass evacuation, such as during Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, there is always frequent media coverage of large-scale evacuations, including evacuation of medical facilities and nursing homes. Those with chronic medical conditions and older adults are two of the many categories worthy of consideration. Vulnerable populations also include pregnant women, prisoners, the homeless, those with functional mental health issues or addiction issues, those with transportation issues, persons in poverty, minorities, persons who are obese, and those who have special supervision needs. Socioeconomic status (SES) has recently been recognized as a significant vulnerability factor. Evacuation can also be an issue for those of a lower SES due to limited financial resources. Dealing with persons with substance abuse and dependency is one of the most neglected areas in the literature involving empirical evidence and guidelines for appropriate response in a disaster. Developing appropriate guidelines and interventions presents a thorny set of problems for both addicted individuals and emergency responders. A final consideration is the role of pets in disaster recovery. Those who engage in disaster preparedness and response with vulnerable populations should be aware of the characteristics that make those populations vulnerable and make special considerations during planning, response, and recovery. The book highlights some of those characteristics, providing responders with necessary guidelines to assess and intervene with those who are especially vulnerable.
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Older adults represent a significant and growing percentage of the American population. A number of studies have demonstrated that older adults are disproportionately affected when disaster strikes. Several studies have demonstrated increased risk for mental health issues in the wake of a disaster. Older adults may experience a multiple loss effect. The researchers employed several instruments to examine mental and physical health of older adults both pre- and post-event: Impact of Event Scale, Revised (IES-R), Geriatric Anxiety Inventory (GAI), Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, SF-12 Health Survey, Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS), Liverpool Stoicism Scale (LLS), and Brief Cope Questionnaire. They found significantly higher PTSD scores among those personally affected by flooding compared to those not personally affected. The physical and psychological stressors of a disaster may exacerbate existing health care issues in older adults or may contribute to the development of new health problems.