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Comprehensive Care for Vulnerable Elderly Veterans during Disasters

Claver M, Dobalian A, Fickel JJ, Ricci K, Horn-Mallers M. Archives of Gerontology and 
Geriatrics 2013; 56(1): 205-213.

Despite problematic evacuation and sheltering of nursing home residents during Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita, an exploration of the experiences of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) nursing homes (VANHs) is necessary for a comprehensive examination of the healthcare community’s response to these disasters. VANH evacuations during these hurricanes have not been widely studied. This exploratory project aimed to provide information about the evacuation experiences and characteristics of vulnerable nursing home residents. Interviews with key informants from VHA facilities with nursing home staff and representatives revealed that physical harm, psychological distress, cognitive decline and increased social isolation were areas that deserved special attention for this vulnerable population. Moreover, physical, psychological and social needs were interconnected in that each influenced the others. Findings contribute to the general conversation about meeting the bio psychosocial needs of nursing home residents in an integrated healthcare delivery system and more broadly, the role of long-term care facilities in general in planning for future disasters.