Giving a voice to medically vulnerable populations: A mixed-methods investigation of their unique perceptions and needs in emergency situations

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Abstract

Older adults in poor health represent a growing sector of the population worldwide. These medically vulnerable individuals often tend to be ill-prepared for emergencies. In times of crisis they are at higher risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes and are liable to place an additional burden on health and social care services. The aim of this study was to explore the unique perceptions and diverse needs of community-dwelling medically vulnerable individuals in Israel in order to gain insights that could be used to promote future preparedness. A mixed methods design was employed that included 16 in-depth interviews, followed by a quantitative survey of 179 participants. Data were collected between 2016 and 2017. The analysis process included thematic analysis for qualitative data. Quantitative data analysis focused on estimating associations between preparedness levels and participants’ characteristics and perceptions. The results indicated low levels of preparedness—only 13.5% of participants reported having prepared a full emergency kit with supplies. Family members played a key role in almost every dimension related to emergency preparedness; alongside certain authorities perceived by the participants as responsible for initiating the preparedness process. Additional issues that emerged were related to information and communication and to the logistics of medication handling and special nutrition. The findings suggest that it is vital to adopt a proactive approach to the problem of preparedness in this population. This conclusion should be of value to health and social care practitioners in the community as well as to family members and caregivers. Practical and simple recommendations for enhancing preparedness based on these findings are provided. Viewing preparedness as a process that is the joint responsibility of the individual, the family, caregivers, and community health and social welfare services could contribute to maintaining continuity of care among vulnerable populations and mitigate adverse health outcomes in future events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-822
Number of pages12
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2020

Keywords

  • emergency preparedness
  • health & social care in the community
  • medically vulnerable populations
  • mixed methods

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