Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Older Adults in Disasters, written by Lisa Furst, LMSW, M.P.H., Director of Education for the Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of Education for the Mental Health Association of New York City, was published in 2014 in The Dialogue, Quarterly Technical Assistance Journal on Disaster Behavioral Heath.

Many older adults have survived significant challenges in their lives and developed an array of coping strategies. However, they have unique needs following a disaster.

What it says

Following a disaster, many older adults will not seek mental health support until their immediate, concrete needs for medical care, safe housing, and routine establishment are met. Furst notes four interventions for older adults:

1). Psychological First Aid to address immediate concerns and needs.

2).  Psycho-education about expected emotional distress reactions and when to seek help.

3). Information and referral for mental health services.

4). Clinical interventions for symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, and more.

Why it matters

Communities and medical and mental health providers should plan ahead for how they will assist older adults following disasters. Donors should consider funding programs for older adults that place basic mental health services into congregate settings – such as nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.

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