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Experiences of Veterans, Caregivers, and VA Home-Based Care Providers before, during, and Post-Hurricane Ian.

Haverhals LM, Manheim C, Vega Lujan D. Experiences of Veterans, Caregivers, and VA Home-Based Care Providers before, during, and Post-Hurricane Ian. Geriatrics (Basel, Switzerland). 2024 Jan 10; 9(1).

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On 28 September 2022, Hurricane Ian pummeled parts of south Florida. Disaster and climate change research has shown that disasters exacerbate inequalities, especially amongst older and physically vulnerable people. Florida has a large population of Veterans managing multiple chronic health conditions and receiving long-term care in-home from Veterans Health Administration (VA) programs, including Home Based Primary Care and Medical Foster Home. To describe how VA staff provided high quality care during and after the hurricane, and how Veterans and caregivers accessed needed healthcare and supports post-hurricane, we conducted a site visit to Lee County, Florida area in May 2023, conducting N = 25 interviews with VA staff, Veterans, and caregivers. Findings from qualitative thematic analysis showed that while some Veterans and caregivers experienced significant challenges during and after the hurricane, including displacement and difficulty accessing oxygen, they felt highly supported by VA care teams. Staff efforts post-hurricane focused on improving care coordination in anticipation of future disasters, especially around communicating with Veterans and their caregivers, and a VA workgroup formed to implement changes. As climate change causes more severe hazard events, lessons learned from this project can better support healthcare staff, older adults, and their caregivers before and after major disasters.

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