Mather Lifeways to Develop Disaster Training Program To Aid Older Adults

Evanston, IL- June 28, 2006, Earlier this month, long term care providers in St. Petersburg, Fla., were planning for the heart of the hurricane season by taking part in PREPARE — a new educational training program designed to protect seniors housed in long-term care communities from disasters such as hurricanes, pandemics, bioterrorism and other disasters. In the wake of last year’s deadly hurricanes and the fear of the potentially deadly Avian flu, more and more elderly care communities are taking a more aggressive approach to protecting older Americans who suffered so dearly last year and the statistics prove the need to do so.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, more than 60 percent of the victims of Hurricane Katrina were 62 years and above, and the majority of the bodies found after the storm were discovered near nursing homes or hospitals. A recent report released by the General Accounting Office entitled “Disaster Preparedness: Preliminary Observations on the Evacuation of Hospitals and Nursing Homes Due to Hurricanes” showed a clear lack of preparation by long-term care communities and assistance by the government. Painting a bleak picture, the report stressed that the current plans in place are not set up to assist evacuation of long-term care communities.

Worse, a recent national survey by the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging found that 9 out of 10 long-term care communities are ill-prepared to deal with public health emergencies and many of the organizations that had developed a disaster plan didn’t realize they actually had one.

“Our goal is to help older adults age well and by creating a program like PREPARE we are training long-term care communities across the country on how to care for seniors during a disaster,” said Cate O’Brien, project manager for the PREPARE program at the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging. PREPARE, which was developed with the help of a three-year grant awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), trains all levels of staff for senior care facilities including skilled care nursing centers, retirement communities, assisted living centers and home healthcare agencies. The training focuses on:

  • Understanding the effects of man-made and natural disasters on the elderly
  • Demonstrating leadership skills during and after emergencies
  • Activating community partnerships and backup strategies in the aftermath of a disaster
  • Developing an effective disaster plan and understanding it
  • Maintaining order by practicing the plan through disaster exercises and drills
  • Involving families in disaster planning so they understand what they should be doing as well


“While the program is relatively new, long-term care community professionals who have taken part in PREPARE training have praised its effectiveness,” said O’Brien. “It enables these care givers a chance to be more organized during a time of crisis.”

Who is Mather LifeWays?

Evanston , Illinois-based Mather LifeWays is a 50+-year-old, unique not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of older adults through lifestyle and residential alternatives that create Ways to Age Well. SM  From independent living to memory support and skilled care, Mather LifeWays’ senior residences comprise a continuum of living and choices. Through community initiatives, including the successful Mather’s—More Than a Café concept, neighborhoods become better places for older adults to live, work, learn, contribute, and play.  The Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging plays a leading role in enhancing the lives of older adults through numerous collaborative and applied research and education projects. To learn more about Mather LifeWays, find your Way .



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Paula Ledbetter
(847) 868.5930

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