Disaster and dementia can be dangerous mix

Wednesday, 6th June, 2018

BE PREPARED – A new guide aims to help the carers of people with dementia to plan for an emergency.

NATURAL disasters can take an even more traumatic and dangerous turn for people with dementia.

But a new guide from the QUT-based Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration: Carers and Consumers aims to prepare carers of people with dementia should disaster happen.

Linda Schnitker from QUT’s School of Nursing said studies have revealed exposure to a  disaster may worsen dementia symptoms and increase the risk of functional decline, hospitalisation and mortality.

Dr Schnitker gave the example of tropical cyclone Yasi in 2011, whose effects on older people’s health, including those with dementia, had been well documented.

She said QUT-led research had previously shown residential aged care facilities were well prepared for natural disasters.

But much less effort had been expended on responding to the special challenges faced by people with dementia and their carers living in the community.

The Preparing for a Natural Disaster guide was compiled in conjunction with the Red Cross RediPlan tool and new Get Prepared App.

“Planning ahead is critical,” Dr Schnitker said.

“So that might mean finding out if emergency exits are wheelchair accessible and whether or not an evacuation centre will cater for people with dementia.

“If that person attends a day care or respite centre, ask what their emergency and evacuation plans are.

“The guide has three colour-coded sections with dementia-specific advice covering preparing for a natural disaster, what to do during one – whether you stay at home, evacuate or the person becomes agitated or lost – and tips for the aftermath including returning home and how to access psychological support.”

The guide also provides advice on how to put together an emergency kit, including tips such as providing comforting and calming items like books, music, puzzles and photos.

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