For nursing home residents suffering from dementia, evacuation from a storm could prove more fatal than the storm itself, according to a report from the Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research (CGHR).
A similar report from the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias, “The Effects of Evacuation on Nursing Home Residents With Dementia,” cites the evacuation effects of Hurricane Gustav in response to the average rate of death among nursing home residents 30 days and 90 days after evacuation.
Among the three-year study of 21,255 nursing home residents living along the Gulf Coast, the death rate among seniors within 30 days of evacuation jumped 218%. Resident deaths also increased within 90 days after evacuations to 158%.
Since the report notes that 50% to 70% of the 1.6 million adults living in nursing homes suffer from a form of dementia, these figures have led to discussions regarding the security of emergency evacuation protocol.
CGHR’s study notes that the transferring of residents from one location to another could disrupt their continuity of care, therefore leading to a greater risk of hospitalization.
In response to the report, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommend new emergency preparedness checklists for nursing homes, though they do not promote any new rules or regulations. The Office of the Inspector General also stressed collaboration between local emergency management agencies and reliable transportation contracts as steps toward improved preparedness.
Moving in with family members during an evacuation could provide residents with much needed familiarity during chaotic times. Both studies admit this to be beneficial to residents, with much stress in the surrounding environment alleviated under the watch of a resident’s family.
Although additional research needs to be done before fully developed procedures can occur, the findings of both studies offer the necessary precautions and variables that must be considered to ensure the safety of residents with cognitive impairments in times of catastrophic disaster.
“By identifying residents who are at greatest risk during catastrophic events and by developing policies, programs, and training that might serve to protect the most vulnerable, long-term care providers, clinicians, public health workers, and emergency responders will be better equipped to prepare for and respond to the needs of this subgroup,” notes the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Written by Jason Oliva