The risk of death rises among older adults with Alzheimer’s or other dementia in the months following exposure to a hurricane, a new study shows.

Previous studies of hurricanes have shown general increases in mortality but little has been known about how mortality following hurricane exposure may differ among older adults living with dementia.

Their increased risk could be due to disruption of normal routine, such as access to care-giving, changes in living environment, loss in access to medications, and change in daily routines, says Sue Anne Bell, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing and first author of the study in JAMA Network Open.

Key findings include:

  • Risk of mortality was highest in those aged 85 and older, with a 9% increase in risk of death compared to adults over 85 without dementia.
  • Older adults who are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid had an 11% increased risk for mortality.
  • Among people with dementia who moved a year after the storm, the risks for mortality remained whether they moved or not.
  • The percentage of mortality attributed to exposure among people with dementia ranged from 10.9% for Harvey to 6.2% for Irma.
  • Mortality peaked 3-6 months after hurricanes Irma and Harvey, suggesting the increase in mortality was due to factors other than the immediate harms of the storm, such as lack of health care access and changes in normal routines.

Read the full article about older adults with dementia after hurricanes by Luara Bailey at Futurity.