Alzheimer Society of B.C. urges residents to plan ahead for climate emergencies

File photo. People in a hospital.

As climate-related crises become more frequent, preparing in advance for emergency situations is crucial, especially for those living with dementia.

Extreme temperatures, storms and fires can worsen cognitive function in people with dementia, causing more emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths.

The Alzheimer Society of B.C. says planning ahead can help people living with dementia through sudden environmental changes.

“We know that dementia can be exacerbated by extreme heat, by flooding, by wildfires,” said Dr. Heather Cooke, manager of research and knowledge mobilization the Alzheimer’s Society of B.C.

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The society recommends preparing an emergency grab-and-go kit with medical and legal documents for potential emergencies. This includes easy on and off clothes, Velcro shoes, an extra pair of glasses, extra supplies of medication and other identification items for the person. The society suggests keeping them in a watertight container in an easily accessible location.

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“In certain situations, (people living with dementia) have limited ability to understand what is happening during evacuations. Creating evacuation plans and preparing emergency kits are essential steps to ensure a prompt response during emergencies,” said Kimberly Mckercher, provincial coordinator of staff training and development at the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

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Due to the rapid increase of climate-related weather emergencies across the province, the society has partnered with the UBC School of Nursing to provide additional guidance ahead of future incidents.

The two groups will be hosting a climate resilience webinar led by Dr. Jennifer Baumbusch.

“She’s going to be talking about some of the strategies that can really help individuals who are living with dementia and their care partners. How to navigate these challenging situations, whether that be fires, floods, atmospheric rivers, some of those things that climate has kind of thrown at us,” said Cooke.

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People can register online through the society’s website which also contains additional resources for dementia patients on reducing agitation, evacuation response and climate emergency preparation.

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