Recommendations to Improve Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery for Older Adults Across Canada

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Closing the Gaps:
Advancing Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery for Older Adults

29 Evidence-Informed Expert Recommendations to Improve Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery for Older Adults Across Canada

DECEMBER 2020

[Excerpts] Report Development Contributors

In January 2019, the Canadian Red Cross in partnership with the National Institute on Ageing reviewed the latest evidence and expert opinions to inform the development of recommendations for governments, organizations and individuals to improve emergency preparedness, response and recovery for older adults.

Executive Summary [Excerpts]

Older adults consistently experience the greatest proportion of casualties during and after emergencies in Canada, and internationally, when compared to younger age groups.

In the 2017 wildfires in British Columbia and floods in Quebec, older adults were impacted the hardest due to their greater levels of vulnerability, while poorly coordinated protocols left them more vulnerable due to delays in initiating evacuation procedures

More recently, 97% of Canada’s first 10,000 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in older Canadians 60 years of age and older, with the greatest proportion of deaths occurring in long-term care and retirement homes.

Several research studies have demonstrated that these poor outcomes are linked to physiological age-related changes, such as impairments to sensory, cognitive and mobility disabilities; access and functional needs; social isolation and lack of access to familial and other social supports; having limited financial resources; and insufficient policies and procedures.
Furthermore, interruption to the timely provision of routine medical care is recognized as a likely contributor to mortality and morbidity associated medical complications during emergencies, especially in the immediate months following major natural disasters. The high proportion of deaths that also seem to occur in older adult congregate living settings is further indicative of fundamental issues that will need to be addressed in these settings as well.

There is a clear need to better support emergency preparedness for older Canadians living at home in the community or in congregate settings. In order to improve preparedness and response to emergencies, Canada needs greater consideration and adoption of evidence-informed, uniform
and collaborative emergency management interventions. These efforts will require improved resources and capacity to meet the emergency needs of all older adults, regardless of the variety of circumstances and settings in which they may be living.

In order to achieve a collaborative approach to improving emergency management nation-wide, the recommendations are categorized across six relevant emergency management domains:

1. Individuals and unpaid caregivers;
2. Community-based services and programs;
3. Health care professionals and emergency response personnel;
4. Care institutions and organizations; 5. Legislation and policy; and
6. Research.

The intention of these recommendations is to provide interventions that can bridge the existing gaps in emergency preparedness, response and recovery, and facilitate better outcomes for older adults across Canada.

The intention of these recommendations is to provide interventions that can bridge the existing gaps in emergency preparedness, response and recovery, and facilitate better outcomes for older adults across Canada.