Disaster Workshop Targets Seniors

Hurricane Ike showed how severe weather can affect the senior population which may not always have loved ones to rely on. A workshop targeted for elders was presented by the UT Medical School. It was held in the Sunnyside Area, one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Ike. Pat Hernandez has the story.

image of Dr. John Halphen

Disaster situations have the potential to result in inadequate medical treatment for seniors. Dr. John Halphen is with the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at the UT Medical School in Houston. He says it’s important that seniors who evacuate during a disaster keep their generic medication properly labeled.

“There’s a lot of different manufacturers for the same thing and so, it would be important for people to actually have a properly labeled bottle, such as one that comes from the pharmacy. If they don’t have them properly labeled, we may not be able to determine what they’re actually on.”

Dr. Halphen says caregivers should be aware of medication or treatment that need power or refrigeration like respirators or insulin.

“Most of the time the insulin can go for a while without refrigeration, but there may be other things that they need that require power, such as oxygen. And these may be people that are on dialysis, so it may be important for them to have some sort of alternative place to receive the resources that they need.” 

image of Director Dr. Kim Dunn

At the workshop, seniors got to register with the new Continuity of Clinical Information and Care Program called Healthquilt. Director Dr. Kim Dunn says it improves access to specialty care by underserved populations using the internet.

“They actually get a card that basically says I have a personal health record. And we’re piloting Memorial Hermann and also LBJ Hospital, so that in routine care, if you do have to go to the emergency room, the doctors have your information. In a mass disaster situation, you would need to have continuity of information, so that the next set of doctors knew core data about you.”

Seniors also registered for Evacuation Disaster Transportation Assistance or 2-1-1 if they are not able to evacuate on their own. Senior Elsie Jones found the workshop very useful.

image of Elsie Jones and Pat Hernandez

“I learned a lot today about evacuation and about your medicine and, it was very interesting.”

Hernandez: “Hopefully, it won’t be another Ike, huh?”

Jones: “I hope it won’t be another Ike. I really do, because my house is not fixed!” (laugh)     

Pat Hernandez, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.