New Report Provides Guidance for Supporting Caregivers during Emergencies and Natural Disasters

The Rosalynn Carter Institute (RCI) and Duke University outline issues facing communities and first responders during extreme weather scenarios and provide a roadmap for how to plan ahead

AMERICUS, GA (December 13, 2022) – Today, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI) shares findings from a recently published study in partnership with Duke University, titled Caregiving in U.S. Gulf States During Natural Disasters and COVID-19. The report, published in Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine, explores the experiences of caregivers during natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to equip communities with preparatory resources and tools to better navigate these often-unexpected situations.

Ahead of anticipated winter storms, the report unveils a myriad of logistical concerns first responders must attend to during these moments, which may include, ensuring the availability of battery power for medical devices, planning evacuation logistics for non-mobile or complex care recipients, and identifying appropriate and accessible alternative lodging.

Informed by first-hand experiences of caregivers and their needs, the report also outlines recommendations and procedures to help local communities prepare for such extreme scenarios in advance. These include:

●      Creating an evacuation process addressing the unique challenges of caregiving, including transportation and shelters designed for care recipients with various medical and mental health conditions

●      Engaging specialized emergency preparation and management services that span public health, medical, and social services to avoid service disruptions and address acute issues

●      Developing a caregiver registry for first responders, utility companies and disaster case managers and implementing technology systems to enable local officials to quickly connect with families with medical needs in all phases of a disaster

●      Establishing a caregiver emergency hotline that gives caregivers a lifeline in case of an emergency before, during or after an event

“Family caregivers are often the initial first responders during any disaster, whether that be a weather event or pandemic,” said Dr. Jennifer Olsen, chief executive officer of RCI. “This research set out to understand caregiver experiences and identify ways community and local first responders could support the invisible front line for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.”

Moving forward, RCI will utilize the results and recommendations within this report to develop tools to engage and educate caregivers and first responders in communities across the country to better support caregivers before, during, and after emergencies. A disaster preparedness toolkit for caregivers of Veterans, in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, will be available in early 2023.

The study was conducted through in-depth interviews with unpaid caregivers in the U.S. Southeast/Gulf Coast states who had experienced caregiving during a natural disaster and during COVID-19. Data were collected between July 6, 2020 and February 2, 2021 and analyzed using applied thematic analysis.

To learn more and read the study and its recommendations, visit here.

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About the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers  
The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers was established in 1987 by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter to promote the health, strength, and resilience of caregivers throughout the United States. RCI fulfills its promise to champion the family caregiver by building cross-sector partnerships, developing and providing evidence-based programs and advocating for public policy.

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