Natural disasters, like forest fires or hurricanes, can be dangerous for everyone but can be especially confusing for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. There are steps that you can take to ensure you are as ready as possible to provide great care in the event of a disaster.
Before a Disaster Hits
Preparing and being aware before a disaster hits can ensure the safety of you and your loved one. If the patient with Alzheimer’s is in a residential facility, make sure you are aware of evacuation plans and who is responsible for your loved one in the event of an emergency. In addition, make sure there are other people other than the primary caregiver, who have copies of the person’s medical history, medication and family contacts. Prepare an emergency kit and if the patient needs oxygen, make sure you have easy access to portable tanks. Enroll in safe return programs and check with local Alzheimer’s Association groups to see what resources are available for the elderly.
During an Evacuation
If there is a need to evacuate, leave as early as possible to allow for extra time to get to a safe place. Alert other family members, friends, or medical personal that you are changing locations. People with dementia have a limited ability to understand what is happening and are vulnerable to chaos and emotional trauma. Be alert for reactions to changes in routine or environment, including agitation and wandering. Do your best to remain calm as the person with dementia will respond to the emotional tone you set.
Tips for Preventing Agitation
Reassuring the person and telling them things are going to be fine will help to prevent agitation from growing. If the person is anxious, take them for a walk or find ways to exert that energy and try to redirect their attention. Try to keep on medication schedules, as well as sleeping and eating, as much as possible. Lastly, remind the person that they are in the correct place.
Consider prepping an emergency kit to have on-hand in the case of a disaster. Be sure to protect medications and documents in watertight bags. Some items your kit could include would be:
- Supplies of medication
- Spare pair of eyeglasses
- Easy on and easy off clothes
- ID card and copies of medical documents, insurance cards and Social Security cards
- Recent photo of the person
- Water bottle
Take Care of Yourself
Remember to take moments and breathe or reflect. Try to find someone to share your thoughts and feelings with about the event.