Thursday, July 9, 2020
During an AALS-sponsored online "hang-out" session this week, the featured host, Syracuse Law Professor Nina Kohn, helped faculty think about better ways to conduct online courses, including Elder Law. We also talked about our research projects for the summer. Nina commented that she has never before had "so much to write about and so little time to do so," which I suspect has something to do with her wonderfully active children! But, I also think that most of us in the AALS Section on Law and Aging are feeling the same way. It is as if our client base -- older persons -- are at the epicenter of so much tragedy. Sadly, the COVID-19 illness has hugely impacted older persons, as documented frequently on this Blog.
And now the news that in Japan, seasonal rains that have become steadily worse over the years for reasons associated with climate change, have triggered extraordinary flooding, resulting in the drowning deaths of many elders in their nursing homes or while trying to shelter at home. From the New York Times article, Japan's Deadly Combination: Climate Change and an Aging Society:yAlthough the Japanese gird every June and July for the rainy season — known as tsuyu — this year the rainfall has set records in Kyushu, with more rain expected to blanket central Japan by the end of this week.
Older residents accustomed to year after year of summer rains may believe they know how to ride out the downpours at home. Yet they may not understand the growing severity of the rains or the increased dangers of flooding.
“Under the emerging impact of global warming, there is an increasing risk or potential that rainfall amounts could be at a level that we haven’t experienced in the past,” Professor Nakamura said. “So I think that citizens must realize that their previous experience may no longer work. We have to act even earlier or faster than what we have experienced in the past.”
Evacuation itself can pose a risk to the elderly. Conditions in evacuation centers inevitably fall short of those in nursing homes designed for old-age care. For the frailest patients, the moves can cause injury or destabilize long-term care plans....
In the case of the Senjuen nursing home, Aki Goto, its director, told The Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun, a local newspaper, that she had been more concerned about mudslides than flooding. When the waters came, she added, the caregivers could not move quickly enough to move all the residents upstairs.
Six of the workers were on call the night of the floods last weekend, the newspaper reported. That still left each caregiver in charge of more than 10 aging residents, some of whom were unable to walk without help. Even with the aid of local volunteers, they could not bring everyone to safety upstairs as the floodwaters rapidly rose and deluged the ground floor.
Whether it is hurricanes in the Carribean and US, wildfires in western US states, extraordinary storms or unique diseases around the world, our elderly are often seeming to take the heaviest blows. Isolated and with inadequate protective equipment or assistance, the pattern of "unexpected" deaths continue. Unexpected?