Project Investigators Dr. Linda Schnitker
Year: July 1, 2016
Partners Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
Australia regularly experiences a range of natural disasters, including bushfires, floods, cyclones, and earthquakes. The Australian population is encouraged to prepare for natural disaster by developing emergency response plans. Accordingly, considerable investment has been made in recent years in attempts to educate and encourage families and communities to better prepare for, and respond to natural disasters. Older people, including those with dementia, are vulnerable in times of natural disaster. However, less effort has been used on responding to the special challenges during natural disasters faced by carers of people with dementia living in the community.
People with dementia and their carers have a number of additional challenges when confronted with an emergency situation, including the limited capacity of the person with dementia to understand and cope with the sudden changes occasioned by emergencies. During these events, people with dementia have special needs, including improved identification (e.g. photos, identification bracelet if the person gets lost), prevention of wandering, the use appropriate communication skills (e.g. to help them remaining calm), and preparation of medical records in case nursing and medical care is required.
The predicted large increase in the number of people with dementia in the coming decades coupled with the increasing frequency of natural disasters, mean it is timely that consideration be given to better understand the specific needs of people with dementia who live in the community and their carers during disasters and emergencies. In response to these important issues, this project aims to develop a disaster preparedness tool – the CaRed-Guide- that takes into account the challenge that Australian carers of people with dementia living in the community face when a natural disaster strikes.
This project consists of three interconnected phases. The aim of the first phase is to be aware of relevant literature and practices related to disaster management of carers of people with dementia living in the community. Relevant literature and the research team’s skills and knowledge will be converted into a draft CaRed-Guide. In the second phase the draft guide will be further refined, customised and agreed on by an expert advisory group that includes carers of people with dementia living in the community and emergency services workers.
A structured communication method will be used to gather expert opinions about the drafted guide. In the end, a final CaRed-guide for carers of people with dementia living in the community will be established. The aim of the third phase is to create a clear implementation plan. The plan will include strategies for successful implementation of the guide in Australian communities. For example, how to best reach the end users of the guide and encourage its utilisation.
Findings from this research will be available to support carers of people with dementia living in the community to prepare for potential natural disasters. It will facilitate their capacity to prepare a family emergency plan that addresses the special needs of carers of people with dementia and those depending on them in the event of a natural disaster.
Project lead by Dr Linda Schnitker.
Other researchers: Prof Vivienne Tippett (QUT), Prof Gerry Fitzgerald (QUT) & Prof Lisa Brown (USA);
Development team: Deborah Brooks, Sara Baniahmadi