In the aftermath of the recent North Bay fires and the devastation from this summer’s hurricanes, putting together an emergency plan is top of mind for most people. While natural disasters like earthquakes or forest fires impact everyone’s level of anxiety, they can be particularly upsetting and confusing for people with dementia.
The best way to prepare for potential disasters is to create a plan which includes a ready-to-use emergency kit and evacuation protocol.
• Determine where you will relocate your loved one or client to in the event of an emergency.
• Are there friends or relatives to stay with in the event of an evacuation?
• If the person receives routine health procedures at a clinic or with home health, who are the back-up service providers?
• Will you have access to refilling prescriptions if necessary? Explore Medicare’s Getting Care and Drugs in a Disaster Area, which explains how Medicare beneficiaries have special rights to get out-of-network care if they live in an area where the President has declared a disaster.
• If the person with dementia lives in a residential facility or attends an adult day program, learn about its disaster and evacuation plans.
Assemble an Emergency Kit
While it’s critical to take individual needs into account when assembling an emergency kit, such as portable oxygen or assistive devices, there are plenty of helpful lists available like this one from HealthMarkets that offer a great starting point.
In addition to the essential items necessary for initial survival, consider the following for your client or loved one with dementia:
• Supplies of medication (minimally, a list of medications with dosages)
• Incontinence supplies, if needed
• Easy on/off clothes (a couple of sets)
• Velcro shoes/sneakers
• Spare pair of eyeglasses
• Recent picture of the person with dementia in case you get separated
• Personal favorite items of the person (book, photos, etc.)
Once assembled, place your emergency kit in a watertight container, and store it in an easily accessible location. It’s important to include copies of important documents, including legal papers, medication lists, insurance information and Social Security cards.
Take Action if Necessary
If you know a disaster is about to happen, take the following steps to safeguard the environment for you and those you care for:
• Move to a safe place (that has been designated in advance).
• If the need to evacuate is likely, do not delay. Leave as early as possible to minimize long delays in traffic.
• Alert others (such as family, friends and medical personnel) that you are changing locations, and give them your contact information. Update them regularly as you move.
• Be prepared for wandering and agitation resulting from changes in routine, traveling and new environments.
• Do not leave the person with dementia alone. It only takes a few minutes to wander away and get lost, creating an even higher risk situation.
• Do your best to remain calm, as this may help establish a positive tone.
For additional support when assisting someone with dementia during a disaster, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 or check out their exhaustive list of related articles and resources.