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From USA Today:

A new study about nursing home evacuations during hurricanes exposes grave consequences suffered by the most vulnerable residents and flaws within government guidelines for the relocations.

A 218% increase in the mortality of residents with severe dementia is cited in a three-year study of 21,255 residents living in nursing homes along the Gulf Coast within 30 days of an evacuation, and a 158% increase in deaths within 90 days.

The authors' report Thursday at the Gerontological Society of America's annual meeting in San Diego comes seven months after a government study cited "gaps'' in the evacuation plans of nursing homes that could compromise health and safety.

"We don't know why these deaths are occurring after evacuations,'' says Lisa Brown, a lead author of the dementia study and a professor of aging studies at the University of South Florida-Tampa. "This is the first report to quantify the deaths. It tells us we need to think through evacuations."

Though physical safety is emphasized in government guidelines, Brown says, "there's a shortfall when it comes to mental health issues. Dementia, depression and anxiety are not being dealt with."

The authors wrote that 50% to 70% of about 1.6 million adults living in nursing homes have Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.

"Sheltering in place'' is the preferred method for dealing with residents, Brown says, because of the risks of relocation. There was a four-fold spike in evacuations from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when about 140 patients drowned in nursing homes, through Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

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