Emergency situations, such as hurricanes, can significantly impact everyone’s safety, but they can be especially upsetting and confusing for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in any stage of the disease. Being prepared is crucial. There are steps and precautions caregivers can take to be as ready as possible. Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Association staff can provide counseling, support and assist displaced families in finding care for their loved ones through a 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900.
The Alzheimer’s Association has developed the following emergency preparedness guidelines to assist families and caregivers coping with Alzheimer’s:
• Consult with your physician and pharmacy about what mechanisms they have in place for continuity of care and prescription needs in the event standard communications lines are down.
• If your loved one lives in a residential facility, find out about its disaster and evacuation plans. Ask if you will be responsible for evacuating your loved one.
• Prepare an emergency kit (see below for suggestions).
• Keep all medications organized, in a safe and accessible place.
• If you have a cellphone, store your emergency contact numbers including your local Alzheimer’s Association (800-272-3900). Have an additional pre-charged battery.
• If you do not have a cellphone, keep an emergency call list with your medicines.
• Pre-register at your county’s special needs shelter in case you need to evacuate to a shelter.
• Know your evacuation route.
Consider preparing an emergency kit in advance. Keep it in a watertight container and store it in an easily accessible location. Your emergency kit might include:
• Easy on/off clothes (a couple of sets).
• Supplies of medication (or minimally, a list of medications with dosages).
• Velcro shoes/sneakers.
• Back-up pair of eyeglasses.
• Incontinence products.
• Extra identification items for the person, such as an ID bracelet and clothing tags.
• Copies of legal documents (such as power of attorney), medical documents that indicate the individual’s condition and current medications, insurance cards, and Social Security cards.
• Use waterproof bags to hold medications and documents.
• Physician’s name, address and phone numbers.
• Recent picture of the person with dementia.
• Lotion (good for soothing person).
• Flashlights and batteries
• Battery-operated radio.
• Earphones (calming music) loud areas may increase agitation of our love one
• Simple activities — photo album, scrapbooks.
Tips for preventing agitation:
• Reassure the person. Hold hands or put your arm on his or her shoulder. Say things are going to be fine.
• Find outlets for anxious energy. Take a walk together or engage the person in simple tasks.
• Redirect the person’s attention if he or she becomes upset.
• Move the person to a safer or quieter place, if possible. Limit stimulation.
• Make sure the person takes medications as scheduled.
• Schedule regular meals and maintain a regular sleep schedule.
• Avoid detailed explanations.
• Provide additional assistance with all activities of daily living.
• Pay attention to cues that the person may be overwhelmed (fidgeting, pacing).
• Remind the person that he or she is in the right place.
Helpful hints during an episode of agitation:
• Approach the person from the front and use his or her name.
• Use calm, positive statements and a patient, low-pitched voice. Reassure.
• Respond to the emotions being expressed rather than the content of the words. For example, say, “You’re frightened and want to go home. It’s OK. I’m right here with you.”
• Don’t argue with the person or try to correct. Instead, affirm his or her experience, reassure and try to divert attention. For example, “The noise in this shelter is frightening. Let’s see if we can find a quieter spot. Let’s look at your photo book together.”