When a natural disaster such as a hurricane or a tidal wave threatens a community in Kentucky, and authorities recommend or order an evacuation, is this decision really the best for all of the residents? According to Senior Housing News, recent reports say no.

Research Results

The results of two recent studies suggest that nursing home residents with dementia may run more of a risk of dying from the trauma of evacuating the nursing home than they would from the actual disaster. 

“The Effects of Evacuation on Nursing Home Residents With Dementia” was published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementia. In the report, researchers from the University of South Florida’s School of Aging Studies reported the results of a three-year study that focused on 21,255 residents of nursing homes along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Having been hit so hard three years earlier by Hurricane Katrina, many more nursing homes heeded the warning to evacuate the area before Gustav reached them. 

The researchers discovered that the death rate of elderly residents increased 218 percent within 30 days of evacuation; the increase was 158 percent 90 days after evacuation. Aging In Action reported on the percent of residents with a high Cognitive Performance Scale (CPS) score who died within 30 or 90 days of the evacuation. The percentages for residents who were evacuated varied greatly from those who stayed put. The percentage of residents who died within 30 days of being evacuated (6.72 percent) was more than twice that of residents who sheltered in place (3.04 percent). The mortality rate was 15.01 percent for evacuees within 90 days of the event compared to 11.03 percent for residents who sheltered in place.

A Vulnerable Population

Because more than half of the 1.6 million residents of nursing homes in the United States suffer from dementia, the wisdom of insisting that they be evacuated during an emergency has been called into question. A report by the Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research (CGHR)

speculates that transferring elderly residents whose health is fragile may disrupt their continuity of care, resulting in more of the residents being hospitalized.

What Are the Options?

The physical safety of nursing home residents is important, of course, but minimizing stress may be equally important to their survival. Here are some steps that can be taken:

  • Minimize exposure to media coverage of the disaster.
  • In advance of the event, arrange for the high-risk residents to relocate to the homes of family members.
  • Develop and test interventions to help residents with dementia if evacuation is necessary. 

Has Your Loved One Been Injured In A Nursing Home?

If you believe your loved one is being subjected to nursing home abuse you need to speak with an experienced Kentucky nursing home neglect attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 888.450.4456 to schedule a free consultation.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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