As outlined in our Forgotten in a Crisis: Addressing dementia in humanitarian response report, one in every 70 people around the world is impacted by crisis and urgently needs humanitarian assistance and protection.
People with a so-called ‘hidden’ disability like dementia can be left behind in receiving humanitarian assistance and protection if those responding do not ’see’ their condition.
This advice has been developed from our Forgotten in a Crisis report and in accelerated response to the crisis in Ukraine. As such, they do not necessarily cover every consideration that needs addressing and will therefore continue to be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis.
These advice cards are intended for use by carers, humanitarian agencies, communities, local agencies and people living with dementia and may be adapted and applied to any emergency situation, crisis or natural disaster.
If you require these cards in your respective language and are able to assist with checking the respective translation, please email Digital Lead Taylor Paatalo.
The individual advice cards can be downloaded in PDF format on the right hand side of the page or in .mp4 and .gif format at the bottom of the page.
Our advice cards have been shaped and adapted around the following areas and information compiled from our report.
Identifying people living with dementia
It is important that others, including healthcare responders and humanitarian aid services, know someone is living with dementia in order to best support and care for them, especially in the case of separation. Creating some sort of identification can help indicate the person is living with dementia. If already being helped by humanitarian or healthcare responders, alert them to person’s condition. If the person has access to smartphone, store medical information and updated emergency contact information.
In some communities, persons with disabilities like dementia may experience violence or abuse because they are feared or viewed negatively. If possible, set up a physical safe space for those with cognitive and psychosocial disabilities and those that support them.
Clear communication is vital
Speak clearly, calmly and in shorter, simpler sentences to explain what is happening or when giving instructions. Exercise patience while giving person time to process what is being said. Consider own body language and gestures when trying to convey information. Non-verbal communication is an important way a person living with dementia may be trying to communicate, particularly if in later stages of disease.
Guidance and support
It’s important to practice patience and remain calm when speaking with or caring for the person with dementia. People living with dementia can have atypical reactions to crises and may need extra support and guidance to prepare, protect and recover from emergency situations.
Some people with dementia may resist leaving dangerous environments if they do not comprehend the threat that they face. If others are helping you to care for a person living with dementia, underscore why they may need more time to process information or the situation.
Plan according to mobility
If the person with dementia has issues around physical mobility, facilitate interventions, such as securing walking assistance devices, to help assist with transport of person. If with others or in the care of a larger group, alert others that you may need help in assisting the person in case of sudden need to evacuate.
Assistance with food, drink and hygiene
Disruption of routine and day-to-day tasks can be difficult for people living with dementia. These tasks and actions can become even more difficult for those with dementia during humanitarian emergencies. Remind or assist the person living with dementia to continue with regular eating and drinking where possible. Include or seek out nutrient-rich foods where available, as micronutrient deficiencies can have severe consequences for older people’s mental and physical health, immune system and overall functional abilities. This can impair survival and recovery from crisis. Assist with activities related to hygiene where possible.
Carer safety and wellbeing
Carer safety and wellbeing is just as important as that of the person with dementia. It is important to eat, drink and rest whenever possible.