Helping the Elderly Recover

Studies show older adults take longer to recover from a catastrophic event than others. Health problems, fixed incomes, and lack of awareness about disaster assistance are all contributing factors. The elderly are also a preferred target of fraudulent


During the aftermath of a disaster, it’s important to be supportive of older family members and become aware of some of their special needs and vulnerabilities.

Common reactions older adults may experience include:

  • Confusion, memory loss, or disorientation
  • Concealing or not wanting to know the full extent of damage
  • Fear of losing independence or being sent to a long-term care facility
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Apathy or believing they are too old to start over again
  • Irritability, anger, or suspicion
  • Grief over losses from the past

Without proper help, older adults can decline rapidly following a disaster. Pay attention to changes in an older family member that indicate a need for extra help, such as:

  • Increased memory loss
  • Making poor decisions
  • Being easily distracted
  • Declining health
  • Neglecting medical needs and hygiene
  • New physical symptoms possibly related to stress
  • Decreased mobility
  • Driving poorly
  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares

During the period of recovery, older family members can be unintentionally overlooked. Be mindful of their special needs and make time to offer emotional support and practical help:

  • Visit and phone your elderly loved ones regularly.
  • Listen to their concerns.
  • Help them maintain daily routines as much as possible.
  • Offer to provide transportation.
  • Help them deal with insurance companies.
  • Find out about disaster recovery aid they may qualify for.
  • Help them fill out the paperwork and keep appointments.
  • Be honest with them. If necessary, suggest alternatives to rebuilding.
  • Connect them to social services for senior citizens.
  • Help them stay involved with their social and faith communities.
  • Encourage them to report fraud or abuse to authorities.