Friday, September 13, 2013

Disasters and People who are Elderly


Reading about the flooding in Colorado, I was thinking about the impact on the individuals.  Living in a gulf state, we understand the impact this can have, as do all of us who have lived in an area hit by natural disasters.  (Point of personal privilege--good wishes to all those in Colorado).  Disaster planning has become something of the norm--we stock up on hurricane supplies at the beginning of each season (write me if you want to know what we buy. I have added a solar-powered phone/tablet charger to my supplies), a friend in California keeps an earthquake kit, another keeps an axe in the attic (in case of flooding) and we all know about the horrific problems any natural disaster can cause. Think about the wildfires, and who can forget Super Storm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, to name a few.

So do our students need to know about disaster planning beyond what they need to do as individuals?  There are a number of issues that actually bear discussing, as we have seen over time.  Do clients have their advance directives and other legal documents in order and in a place where they can "grab and go" or stored in a place that is "disaster-resistant?"  What happens post-disaster if they need to file insurance claims or apply for disaster relief assistance, and will that have any effect on their eligibility for other programs?  What about quality of care issues?  Everyone can remember during Katrina with the problems with evacuating adults who were frail and living in facilities.  What is the facility's disaster plan? What happens if the facility breaches its duty to residents during a disaster? What are the legal obligations of any fiduciaries both pre- and post-disaster?  Pet owners may have additional issues to face. There may be special services or arrangements needed for individuals with special needs.  Oh and let's not forget all those "helpful" (that is meant sarcastically) perpetrators who scam individuals with offers of help for a fee (paid in advance) or even worse, those who set up fake charities in the name of disaster relief and then abscond with the money. There are more, I'm sure.

So I do think talking about the issues in our elder law classes is appropriate. There are lots of sources on disaster planning and recover" including those for people with special needs. There are state specific resources as well. I've listed a few general sources here--add your favorites.

FEMA,  as expected, has many resources, including by type of disaster (fortunately I didn't see a box in the list of disasters that said "check all of the above"). Their Make a Plan site is a good place to start. The American Red Cross as well, offers lots of good information, including information specifically for people who are elderly and those who care for them, as does the Administration on Aging (AoA). HUD also has some great information on recovery resources.

There's more, but this will get you started if you want to add this topic to your curriculum.  And for any of us (or our families) who face a disaster, I wish us all little to no damage, good health and speedy recovery.

Becky Morgan

Stetson Law

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