After the Disaster: Now what?General Public Image - Elders

Although people of all ages have similar struggles in recovery from disaster, there are some special considerations for the elderly.   Here are some tips to help you in your recovery.

  • Remember that recovery is a process, not an event.  You will probably go through phases of recovery, including:
    1. Denial  (pretending nothing ever happened)
    2. Anger (finding someone or something to blame)
    3. Bargaining (imagining that there is some way to erase the disaster or protect against further trauma)
    4. Depression (feeling numb and sad as the full experience begins to sink in)
    5. Acceptance (integrating the experience of the disaster within your life experience as a whole)

Remember that this process takes time, and that you can be patient with yourself as you take the journey of recovery.

  • Anticipate and be on the look-out for signs of stress.  An optimal amount of stress is good as it helps us function, but too much stress can lead to health-problems and psychological concerns.

In older adults some disaster stress reactions may be experienced immediately, while others may appear months later.

  • Focus on maintaining close relationships.  Some people who survive a disaster experience a strong desire to withdraw from others. They may withdraw even from those to whom they are the closest. Overcoming the tendency to isolate ones self takes real strength and discipline, of the sort that many elderly persons are already skilled at through a lifetime of doing the necessary but difficult thing.

A few ways to break the isolation barrier are to:

• TALK: It takes courage to reveal what you are thinking and feeling to someone else. Talking can be very comforting and healing.  

• ASK FOR HELP: Research shows that people who ask for help come through disasters stronger and healthier than those who view seeking help as a weakness.  Perhaps some short-term counseling (insert internal link here) may help you make sense of the experience of the disaster, and rather than be a sign of weakness this is a sign of strength.

• BE WITH PEOPLE: Stay involved with your religious or spiritual or civic communities and with any elder-specific services that are available in your area.

  • Invest in self-care.  Now is the time to take care of yourself, to sleep and eat and listen to music and try to resume your ordinary activities as you are able and as circumstances permit. You have survived a disaster. That doesn't mean your life is over or that you don't deserve to be happy again. Do something good for yourself.