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Experts weigh in on dementia support amid Okanagan wildfire crisis

Familiarity is important said the Alzheimer Society of BC
The Comox Valley Community Foundation photo.

People living with dementia are vulnerable to crisis and emotional trauma and an emergency situation can make matters worse for them.

Recent wildfire evacuations in the Central Okanagan are one example.

Jill Jukes, director of community services with the Alzheimer Society of BC (ASBC), says changes to routine, location and circumstances can be challenging for those living with dementia and the people supporting them.

“It adds extra stress, complications and time to everything,” she said. “It can lead to frustrations and behaviours that maybe caregivers aren’t used to seeing.”

In a crisis, someone with dementia may feel upset with others. They may not know they are upset and may be unable to describe why they feel that way.

Jukes said it’s important to react to how an individual is feeling in the moment.

“If someone is feeling agitated or scared, what can you do in that moment to make them feel reassured and safe. It’s not likely you’re going to be able to explain the situation. You’re going to focus on we’re not safe here right now let’s take this next step to get to a safe place.”

Jukes added it may also be helpful to take the person’s mind off of what is happening by talking about something else.

Familiarity is important as well.

“If you know there is something that will help a person feel settled in a different place, try and bring that,” Jukes said.

The ASBC website has tool kits and resources available with tips for caregivers on how to respond during a disaster.

More information about dementia can be found on the ASBC website and by calling the helpline at 1-800-616-8816.

READ MORE: Kelowna wildfire remains held, evacuation alerts remain in effect

READ MORE: West Kelowna wildfire sees no overnight changes despite increased winds


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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Recently joined Kelowna Capital News and WestK News as a multimedia journalist in January 2022. With almost 30 years of experience in news reporting and radio broadcasting...
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