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Seniors Get Emotional First Aid In Assisted Living Communities

It was around six in the morning when she burst into our room. With tears streaming down her cheeks and a look of fear and sheer panic on her face, my mother, who just the night before had returned from vacation with us, informed us that, “New York city is being bombed, that fighter jets were flying over the city.” Of course, it was September 11, 2001 and although the facts streaming from her radio were not interpreted completely accurately, they began to unfold a series of horrific events that 9 years later still causes goose bumps. The hours, days, weeks and years that followed this horrid, hate filled atrocity left emotional scars that still haunt so many people today.

Sadly, natural, accidental and planned disasters happen around the world all of the time. Most news reports focus on the environmental devastation, physical illness, injury and death, while long term emotional distress takes a back seat as the headlines fade. The New England Journal of Medicine writes that, ”as the recent Deepwater Horizon oil disaster enters its next phase, consensus is emerging that among its most profound immediate health effects are those on the emotional and psychosocial health of Gulf Coast communities.”  “State mental health and substance abuse agencies report an increase in emotional distress and demand for assistance. Calls to domestic violence hotlines are increasing.  Fishermen fear for their families’ economic future, and communities wonder how the influx of cleanup workers and volunteers will affect their way of life.”

Davy in Therapy by *warrioronlydude on deviantART

Most major disasters, including the Exxon Valdez spill, Hurricane Katrina, and the 9/11 attacks, have been followed by increases in the prevalence of mental illness, domestic violence, and substance abuse.1,2 Emotional distress manifests itself at increased rates of driving while intoxicated, theft, domestic violence and assault. Many independent and assisted living communities help their residents in dealing with the psychological and emotional responses to national or world disasters by organizing discussion groups. People of all ages and from all walks of life are affected by horrific events, but sometimes the elderly feel more isolated when disaster strikes.  Symptoms such as apathy; a sense of hopelessness; recurrent somatic complaints; and excessive irritability and anger frequently appear long after the media clips disappear.

After disaster strikes, assisted living communities frequently arrange for guest speakers from state and local agencies and community based organizations that can offer psychological first aid. They are trained to address emotional distress, build coping skills, connect people with support services, and promote a return to normal routine, as well as counseling and psychiatric services if necessary.
The immediate community based discussion groups give residents the chance to express and share their fears, concerns and feelings of sadness.  The groups also encourage residents to ask questions but in most instances, just having the opportunity to share their feelings with others and realize they are not alone, helps them in the healing process.

1S Galea, CR Brewin, M Gruber, Exposure to hurricane-related stressors and mental illness after Hurricane Katrina. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2007;64:1427-1434
2LA Palinkas, MA Downs, JS Petterson, J RussellSocial, cultural, and psychological impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.. Hum Organ 1993;52:1-13

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Chicago and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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