Emergency Preparedness: Ways to Help Loved Ones with Dementia 

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emergency preparedness kit, dementia

By Michele D. Baker 

With hurricane season still in full swing, during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month (November) the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) offers emergency preparedness information to Floridians caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related illness: 

Before the storm: 

  • Gather small, familiar comfort items such as family photos, books or a mobile device that plays favorite songs. Keep them accessible during the storm. 
  • Maintain the person’s normal routine; eat, sleep, and take meds at the regular times.  
  • Evacuation plans should take into account the kind and amount of travel that will create the least anxiety for the loved one with dementia. Have a plan for wheelchairs, walkers, portable oxygen and pets. 
  • Ask home care providers about backup or contingency plans to deliver services.
  • If the person is in a care setting, know the company’s evacuation plan. 
  • If traveling via mass transit or staying in a hotel or shelter, tell them you are traveling with someone who has dementia.  
  • Prepare an ID or contact card in case you become separated. Include a local emergency contact for first responders, and someone outside the area in case local communications become disabled. 
  • Make copies of important health, legal and insurance documents. Store documents and medications in waterproof bags ready to go. 
  • Have medications, a list of medications, doses, dietary restrictions, allergies, doctor contact info, and other medical information easily available. Get refills in advance of a storm.
  • Make sure the person’s medical history, medication list, and physician contact information is accessible to another trusted individual. 
  • Download Medicare’s “Getting Medical Care and Prescription Drugs in a Disaster or Emergency Area” brochure.  
  • Stock up on non-perishable food and water. Fully charge cell phones and tablets and have flashlights and batteries (not candles) easily accessible in case of power failure. 

Related: Making Alzheimer’s Just a Memory

During the storm: 

  • Limit stimulation as much as possible; try to stay in a quiet place.
  • Pay attention to cues that the person with dementia may be overwhelmed, scared, or upset. 
  • Do what you can to keep them calm. Gently touch their hands and reassure them that everything will be ok and that they are safe.   
  • Utilize favorite comfort items to redirect the person’s attention to something positive. 
  • Pay close attention to the instructions issued by first responders, local governments and emergency management offices.

AFA’s Helpline is staffed entirely by licensed social workers and is available to provide information, assistance, and support to caregivers. Call 866-232-8484, send a text message to 646-586-5283 or web chat in one of over 90 languages. www.alzfdn.org