Breaking News
October 17, 2018 - Modeling Non-Numerical Data in Systems Biology
October 17, 2018 - Research aims to address health disparities in African-American men
October 17, 2018 - Human and cattle decoys trap outdoor-biting mosquitoes in malaria endemic regions
October 17, 2018 - High Circulating Prolactin Level Inversely Linked to T2DM Risk
October 17, 2018 - Study finds gene variant predisposes people to both Type 2 diabetes and low body weight
October 17, 2018 - Network of doctors identify the cause of 31 new conditions
October 17, 2018 - Notable improvement in brain cancer survival among younger patients but not much for elderly
October 17, 2018 - Scientists shed light on roles of transcription factors, TP63 and SOX2, in squamous cell carcinoma
October 17, 2018 - Costs of Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program may be higher than expected reimbursement
October 17, 2018 - Misuse of prescription opioids or benzodiazepines associated with suicidal thoughts
October 17, 2018 - New research seeks to address sex disparities in women’s health
October 17, 2018 - C-Section Rates Have Nearly Doubled Since 2000: Study
October 17, 2018 - Talking to Your Kids About STDs
October 17, 2018 - New classification of periodontal and peri-implant diseases and conditions
October 17, 2018 - Herbert D. Kleber, Pioneer in Addiction Treatment, Dies at 84
October 17, 2018 - Health effects of smoke-filled atmosphere
October 17, 2018 - Down syndrome may hold important clues to onset of Alzheimer’s disease
October 17, 2018 - A special report on US’ aging societies
October 17, 2018 - Birth mode may have acute effects on neurodevelopment, study suggests
October 17, 2018 - Global health innovation system fails to deliver affordable treatments to patients, says report
October 17, 2018 - Simple, inexpensive test quickly detects antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’
October 17, 2018 - New drugs could reduce risk of heart disease when added to statins
October 17, 2018 - Visible and valued: Stanford Medicine’s first-ever LGBTQ+ Forum
October 17, 2018 - HVP vaccination not linked with rise in teen risky sex
October 17, 2018 - Potential ‘early warning markers’ for sepsis discovered
October 17, 2018 - Who knew? Life begins (again) at 65
October 17, 2018 - Application of blood pressure guidelines ups treatment
October 17, 2018 - Stanford researchers find that small molecule may help treat enzyme deficiency
October 17, 2018 - Speed Cameras Save Money and Lives in New York City
October 17, 2018 - Men who conform to ‘the man box’ more likely to consider suicide and violence
October 17, 2018 - Researchers aim to create more authentic organoids for drug testing, transplantation
October 16, 2018 - New blood test for pediatric brain tumor patients offers safer approach than surgical biopsies
October 16, 2018 - Age-related estrogen increase may be the culprit behind inguinal hernias in men
October 16, 2018 - Skills-Based Intervention Did Not Cut Systolic BP After Stroke, TIA
October 16, 2018 - Researchers uncover new role of TIP60 protein in controlling tumour formation
October 16, 2018 - Behind the scenes of a lifesaving heart surgery
October 16, 2018 - ‘To See the Suffering’
October 16, 2018 - Drinking concentrated rosemary extract can boost memory by up to 15%, shows research
October 16, 2018 - Medicare Advantage riding high as new insurers flock to sell to seniors
October 16, 2018 - NHS tackles prescription fraud to save millions
October 16, 2018 - New molecular switch may help develop sophisticated photomedications
October 16, 2018 - Improving access to behavioral health screenings for pregnant and postpartum women
October 16, 2018 - Health Highlights: Oct. 12, 2018
October 16, 2018 - Study holds promise for new pediatric brain tumor treatment
October 16, 2018 - Patient advocate uses MRI scans to create art and spark conversations about life with illness
October 16, 2018 - Fish oil based diets may suppress growth and spread of breast cancer cells
October 16, 2018 - Number of VHA facilities offering acupuncture has increased rapidly
October 16, 2018 - Influential Leapfrog Group jumps in to rate 5,600 surgery centers
October 16, 2018 - HIV-infected infants more likely to acquire congenital cytomegalovirus infection
October 16, 2018 - Study pinpoints new marker that can predict Crohn’s disease subtype
October 16, 2018 - Simple procedure could be efficacious intervention for failed back surgery
October 16, 2018 - New research identifies modifiable dementia risk factor in elderly people
October 16, 2018 - Zebrafish study uncovers molecular ‘brake’ that helps control eye lens development
October 16, 2018 - Overlapping copy number variations underlie autism and schizophrenia in Japanese patients
October 16, 2018 - Early menopause and diabetes may reduce life expectancy
October 16, 2018 - Majority of Americans’ ancestry can be traced through existing DNA databases
October 16, 2018 - Patients coerced into mental health care less likely to perceive treatment as effective
October 16, 2018 - Healthy elders can consume walnuts without having negative impact on weight gain, finds study
October 16, 2018 - Interactive robot helps older people exercise and detects underlying health problems
October 16, 2018 - What you need to know about autism spectrum disorder
October 16, 2018 - Antidepressants can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease
October 16, 2018 - Study uncovers important role of PRMT1 in dilated cardiomyopathy
October 16, 2018 - Nutritional quality of breakfast linked to cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors in children
October 16, 2018 - Study uses novel approach to investigate genetic origins of mental illnesses
October 16, 2018 - Scientists develop dual anthrax-plague vaccine
October 16, 2018 - Poor Outcomes for Hispanic Infants With Congenital Heart Dz
October 16, 2018 - Global study finds youngest in class more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD
October 16, 2018 - Researchers sequence two selfish genes in the fungus Neurospora intermedia
October 16, 2018 - Survey results highlight the need for better communication between patients and HCPs about bacterial vaginosis
October 16, 2018 - Researchers develop fibrin-targeting immunotherapy to protect against neurodegeneration
October 16, 2018 - Researchers create open access database on healthy immunity
October 16, 2018 - Rice University chemist wins big award to study small surfaces
October 16, 2018 - Study finds 43% drop in stroke rate
October 16, 2018 - Researchers identify basic relationships of cell cycle and cellular senescence in the placenta
October 16, 2018 - UA professor receives NSF grant to develop antifouling materials for medical implants
October 16, 2018 - Obesity Doubles Odds for Colon Cancer in Younger Women
October 16, 2018 - Adults with ADHD not constrained in creativity
October 16, 2018 - Raising visibility for people and students with chronic illness and disability
October 16, 2018 - Allele awarded NIH grant to develop nanoantibody therapies for treatment of sepsis
October 16, 2018 - Only 59% of young adults undergoing surgery are fluid responsive
Helping a patient survive a hurricane

Helping a patient survive a hurricane

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

As Hurricane Florence barreled toward her coastal community, Patty Younts grappled with a question: Where should a person with dementia go?

Her husband, Howard, 66, suffers from a type of dementia called posterior cortical atrophy, which has robbed him of short-term memory and made him almost blind. Their home on Pawley Island in South Carolina, where they have lived for more than 30 years, lay in a mandatory evacuation zone. Staying could mean exposing themselves to raging winds and a storm surge. But leaving would mean upending the familiar routines and sense of security that her husband relies on.

Patty, 65, who is her husband’s sole caretaker, decided to take him to higher ground. They spent one night in a hotel in Columbia, S.C., before fleeing inland for Greenville. Patty said her husband, a former golf course superintendent, has always been good-natured and calm. But even eating in a restaurant has become stressful — his vision has deteriorated so badly that he can’t see the food he’s eating. Last Thursday, as he adjusted to a second hotel, his anxiety and stress turned into a “complete meltdown.”

For the first time in their 32-year marriage, Patty said, her husband grew very suspicious. He began accusing her of stealing food, and he threatened to call the police.

“It broke my heart. That’s not him,” she said.

For the more than 5 million people in the U.S. who live with dementia — a set of terminal diseases leading to memory loss, cognitive decline and personality changes — natural disasters can be particularly terrifying. No matter whether they evacuate or stay put, storms can bring added confusion, disorientation, anxiety and paranoia.

“People with dementia function best when they are in their usual environment and their usual routine,” said Ruth Drew, director of information and support services at the Alzheimer’s Association, which has posted guidelines for families dealing with disasters. “When there’s a lot of chaos and hubbub, when people are rushing around and tense, that can be very overstimulating and anxiety-provoking,” she said.

When people with dementia “feel anxious, rushed and hurried, often they shut down. They have a harder time cooperating with a person,” Drew said. They respond to that anxiety in various ways — crying, arguing, fighting, wandering or walking away.

Earline “Candy” Moore, 75, who has vascular dementia, did not want to leave her home of 40 years when Hurricane Florence threatened her neighborhood.(Courtesy of Tina Paxton)

On the southern coast of North Carolina, Tina Paxton, wrestled with how to quell her mother’s anxiety. Earline “Candy” Moore, 75, who has vascular dementia, did not want to leave her home of 40 years, her trusty dogs or her kitten, Destiny. But the storm was set to make landfall not far from the cottage they share outside Calabash.

Paxton, 55, is her mother’s sole caretaker. She said she could not afford the upfront cost of leaving the storm’s path — gas, hotels, possibly getting stranded and missing work at her subscription management company.

She considered relocating to an emergency shelter at a local high school but decided the crowds would ramp up her mother’s anxiety. “Everybody talking, the echoes, the noise — it would’ve been a nightmare, for her and for me,” Paxton said.

Instead, last Thursday she loaded her mother and their three dogs into a compact Kia Optima and headed to a brick church about 10 miles away, where a pastor had invited a half-dozen people to take shelter. They spent two days there, listening to wind that “sounded like a locomotive” as the storm ravaged the state.

As they hunkered down inside the Lighthouse of Prayer church, Moore, whose dementia has prompted confusion, forgetfulness and hallucinations, kept asking where the hurricane was.

“She kept forgetting that the eye of the hurricane was aimed at us,” Paxton said. Every time someone reminded Moore of that fact, she would relive the shock and fear, “like it was all starting over again.”

Gary Joseph LeBlanc, a dementia care educator in Florida, said he received many calls last year during Hurricane Irma from shelters asking for help because people with dementia were having anxiety attacks, being combative, yelling and screaming.

“They didn’t know how to handle these people,” he said.

Dementia patients need to be treated with care, not shuffled around, he added. “By the time you get them to the hospital, they’re going to be worse. The hospitals don’t want them. All they’re going to do is overmedicate them.”

If possible, family members should also keep them out of shelters. “There’s nothing in that building but anxiety,” he said.

LeBlanc spent 20 years caring for his parents, who both had dementia. He said the time he spent without power during 2004’s Hurricane Frances was “the longest three weeks of my life.”

Gary Joseph LeBlanc cared for his father, Joseph LeBlanc (at left in photo dated 2005), who had dementia, during several major storms in Florida.(Courtesy of Gary Joseph LeBlanc)

“My dad was just going nuts. He kept opening the refrigerator, going, ‘Why is that light out? We gotta fix that light!’” recalled LeBlanc, of Spring Hill, Fla.

While the power was out, his father would go to bed, lie down for 10 minutes, realize it was too hot to sleep, come downstairs, then forget what had happened and repeat that pattern over and over.

“He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t turn the TV on. It was all confusion,” LeBlanc said. “He was screaming, he was yelling, he was mad. He didn’t understand what was happening.”

LeBlanc said he did his best to stay calm. “You’ve got a whole nother situation on your hands when you’ve got someone with dementia,” he said. “They’re going to feed off of your emotions — if you get upset, they’re going to get upset.”

In North Carolina, Paxton returned home Saturday after a harrowing drive that involved charging through a foot of running water because there was no other route and she couldn’t go back to the church. Back home, they were relieved to see their house survived the storm undamaged. Moore walked inside, found her kitten — and settled in quickly, happy to be home.

But for people with dementia, recovering from a natural disaster can take extra time, LeBlanc said.

“Even after we got the power back, there was another week of getting back to normal,” he recalled of his time with his father. “It was slow progress, trying to get him back to his routine.”

Since they returned home on Saturday, Patty Younts said, her husband has experienced heightened confusion.

“It seems like he has been even more lost in his own home than before he left,” she said. “He cannot find where the bathroom is. I have to take him every time to show him, get him lined up in front of the toilet.”

For caregivers who evacuated and have not yet returned, LeBlanc recommends checking out the damage first before going home with a loved one who has dementia.

“You really don’t want to bring them back home and see the disaster,” he said. “The less trauma we put them through, the better they’ll be.”

KHN’s coverage of these topics is supported by Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and John A. Hartford Foundation

Melissa Bailey: [email protected], @mmbaily

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles