Emergency Preparedness for Those with Dementia

blog-10-4Alcoeur Gardens, NJ’s Premiere Assisted Living Specializing in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care

As Hurricane Matthew making its way up the east coast and winter season soon to follow we can’t help but be reminded that some folks near and dear to us may need some extra attention.

A disaster can happen anytime, anywhere, and anyplace to anyone.

Although some older adults can be truly amazing during a disaster having gained some serious life skills over time, others, such as those with dementia, are extremely vulnerable during a disaster.

Whether your loved one lives in a residential facility, by themselves or with you in your home, there are things you can do to relieve their fear and anxiety and aid in their safety.

If you have loved ones in a residential facility— be it a nursing home, assisted living or retirement communities—you should acquire copy of the facility’s disaster plan and familiarize yourself with it.

You can even stage a practice run with your loved one periodically so you are both prepared in the event of a disaster, remember those school fire drills?

Two important questions to ask: Where will residents be taken in the event of an evacuation and how will we receive updates on the condition of our loved one during a disaster if we can be there?

Very importantly, don’t make assumptions about people with early-stage dementia who just experience slight memory loss.

The impact of the disaster can exacerbate their symptoms, leaving them incapable of handling the disaster alone.

In fact, during a disaster those with dementia are at high risk for agitation. Hiding, fighting, pacing, wandering and or refusal to leave their home are not uncommon.

So what can you do? For your loved one, you can lessen the anxiety and agitation by doing some of the following:

Do your best to remain calm, as you set the tone for your loved one.

Provide frequent reassurance.

Find outlets for anxious energy-engage the person in simple tasks, distract/talk about memories, etc.

Redirect the person’s attention if he or she becomes upset.

Move the person to a safer or quieter place, if possible.

Make sure your loved one takes medications as scheduled.

Do your best and you will all be just fine.