The Disaster Preparedness Task Force of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry
was formed after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans to identify and address
needs of the elderly after the disaster that led to excess health disability and markedly
increased rates of hopelessness, suicidality, serious mental illness (reported to
exceed 60% from baseline levels), and cognitive impairment. Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) outlines risk groups which fail to address
later effects from chronic stress and loss and disruption of social support networks.
Range of interventions recommended for Preparation, Early Response, and Late Response
reviewed in the report were not applied to elderly for a variety of reasons. It was
evident that addressing the needs of elderly will not be made without a stronger mandate
to do so from major governmental agencies (Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA]
and SAMHSA). The recommendation to designate frail elderly and dementia patients as
a particularly high-risk group and a list of specific recommendations for research
and service and clinical reference list are provided.