Florida Wants Help From Relatives of the Elderly

Florida officials are hoping out-of-state relatives will come to the aid of thousands of senior citizens whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Charley.

The Department of Elder Affairs says seniors are telling relatives everything's okay on the phone even though they're living with holes in the ceiling, water damage, and no power. Some caseworkers have even come across seniors themselves with mold on their clothing,

Terry White of the Elder Affairs Department says they'd rather stay put even though it puts their health at risk. "To be put in a shelter would not be a desirable option for them even though they do not have any running water or electricity or air conditioning. So what we are trying to do is encourage family members who may live out-of-state to check in on that elder person.”

White says Children need to check on the parents in the hurricane area. “People often turn down the request from family members to come in and I had a couple of calls where family members had come down and said that mom and dad were in a much different situation then what they portrayed over the phone. They were very, very concerned."

Pets are another reason elders aren't leaving damaged homes, or didn't evacuate in the first place.

White says the state found out the hard way that people with pets would ignore evacuation orders if they don't have anywhere to put their animals. "That's one area I think that we are going to learn a little bit more on in preparation for the future hurricanes that may or may not come. We need to talk about facilities that can accommodate both people and pets because when the individual pet owner did not want to leave "Fido" behind, what happens is that they endanger themselves."

F-E-M-A has ordered more than 8,300 temporary housing units for Hurricane Charley's victims, many of them elderly retirees.