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Hurricane Poses Special Risks to the Most Vulnerable

Older residents, the disabled and caregivers are told to take precautions

Hurricane Poses Special Risks to the Most Vunerable

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Roughly 1.5 million people are under a mandatory evacuation order.

As Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm, drew closer to the U.S. mainland on Thursday, the most vulnerable residents and their caregivers, from Florida to North Carolina, faced an urgent question: Should we stay or go? And if we go, what do we take?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott had an answer to the first question, at least for residents of the 12 south Florida coastal counties included in his mandatory evacuation order, an area that includes roughly 1.5 million people. “There are no excuses,” Scott said in a news conference in Tallahassee. “You need to leave.”

Many were taking him at his word. Ocean View Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in New Smyrna Beach, about 40 miles northeast of Orlando, moved 170 residents to facilities further inland.

Farther north, coastal residents under a hurricane watch were told they could be affected by flooding from the storm surge even if their communities avoided a direct hit. Older residents, people with disabilities and their caregivers were being advised to prepare. In South Carolina, the state’s Alzheimer's Association posted a list of tips and resources on its website.

Also see: Disaster Preparedness

"Emergency evacuation is tremendously stressful for all involved, but those with Alzheimer's or related dementia may not understand the gravity of the situation," said Cindy Alewine, the chapter president. "It's vitally important for caregivers to have a plan and to know where to get support when a loved one exhibits fearfulness, agitation or changes in behavior."

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