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Preparing for a Natural Disaster when Caring for Someone with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

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By Donna Mischke, Director of Family Services at Concierge Care Advisors

As record low temperatures, snow and ice spread throughout the United States this past week leaving people without power and water, I began to think about our own emergency preparedness and what we would need to do if taking care of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

We should realistically all be prepared for a natural disaster, as we never know what kind of emergency disaster could happen. Proper preparation will vary depending on the disaster and if we are forced to stay in our home without power or flee our home in the case of an emergency. Basic preparedness will include having extra drinking water, nonperishable foods, a can opener, flashlights, lanterns, extra batteries, a first aid kit, a battery or crank powered radio, sanitation supplies such as toilet paper, towelettes, soap, trash bags and disinfectants. Depending on your situation and the disaster, your kit may also include prescription medications, pet food, dry clothes, and blankets. Really any items you need to survive on a day-to-day basis should be added to this kit ahead of time.

In general, we should all be prepared to meet our family needs for 3 to 7 days. If you are a caregiver to someone with cognitive issues, it is especially important to remember this loved one will need extra amenities to secure their safety. The National Institute on Aging recommends you pack some extra items for your loved one. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Copies of legal, medical, insurance and social security information
  • Waterproof bags to hold these documents along with any medications
  • A recent photo
  • Family contact information along with physician’s name and phone number
  • Nutritious drinks and snacks
  • Incontinence items along with wipes and lotions
  • A pillow and personal item such as a stuffed animal or baby doll to hold on to
  • Change of clothing, supportive shoes and blankets
  • Have emergency ID bracelet if not already wearing it

All these items can be neatly packed in a small backpack and kept in a safe place in case of the need to quickly flee the property. These items can also be used as back up items if staying in the property but not able to leave.

As we are all living in a current pandemic, we know that one can never be too prepared. No one can prevent a natural disaster, but you can prepare for them and be ready to protect yourself, your family and your home. It is always important to think of what disaster could happen and make a plan including all members of the family. Practicing the plan and having the necessary items in place are always a good idea. Think about the area you live in and what could possibly happen – forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and snowstorms are only a few of the possibilities. Develop a plan to stay in place and shelter, and a plan to exit fast if necessary. Remember to think about the needs of all the family members and pets living in the home. Make a list of places to go and shelter if necessary. Investigate different routes for evacuation and decide which might be the best depending on the situation. Make sure to sign up for alerts from local and national organizations. Make a written checklist of all items that may need to be taken care of when certain disasters happen.

If caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, create a separate plan to make sure all their needs are met. Plan to try and have one member of the family always stay with them if possible, as they may experience additional anxiety and will need to feel safe. Have all medication and other instructions in writing in case you may have to delegate someone else to care for the loved one.

Overall, we can never be too prepared. It is always a good idea to plan. Remember that each member of your family will have different needs and the ones most vulnerable should have a plan and a backup plan.

 

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