A newly developed algorithm is aimed to help seniors during natural disasters such as the Horse River Wildfire.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo were looking at ways for first responders and providers to better support the elderly and came up with the idea to generate an up-to-date list of vulnerable adults using home care services.
The tool takes into account disability, health status, social isolation, and the amount of support an individual may receive from caregivers.
"Older adults living on their own are more difficult to locate and assist than those living in healthcare facilities," said Sandy Van Solm, algorithm developer, in a release.
"This algorithm helps us to plan for disasters in advance and allows responders to quickly generate an accurate list of those who may need help during a disaster."
During the Horse River Wildfire, multiple groups – including the Rotary House Lodge – helped seniors pack up and evacuate along with the rest of the community. Many had to separate from their families to make sure all the elderly were able to escape.
The algorithm uses data from home care assessments done by interRAI, an international group of researchers looking to improve care and quality of life for vulnerable populations.
These clients are assessed every six to 12 months to determine their health status and service needs.
"It has the potential to save hundreds of lives," said Researcher John Hirdes. “It's a tool that should be top of mind for any part of the country at risk of natural disasters.”