Disaster preparedness tips for families facing dementia

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Disaster situations, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards or forest fires, can have a significant impact on everyone’s safety, but they can be especially stressful and confusing for individuals with dementia.

It’s important for caregivers and families to plan ahead for disaster situations so injuries can be prevented and a person living with the disease can feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers tips for families facing Alzheimer’s and other dementias to prepare for such extraordinary circumstances:

Plan ahead

  • Make a comprehensive safety plan for disaster situations. If the person lives in a residential facility, learn about its disaster/evacuation plans and who is responsible for evacuating the person in the event of an emergency. Be sure emergency evacuation plans accommodate specific needs, such as a walker or portable oxygen.

Prepare an emergency kit

  • As part of an emergency plan, put together an emergency kit in a watertight container and store it in an easily accessible location with important legal and medical documents, extra clothing and supply of medications, and identification items. Make sure medical and health records are accessible by people other than the primary caregiver.

During an evacuation

  • Do your best to remain calm as this may help establish a positive tone. Changes in routine, traveling and new environments may increase the risk for wandering and agitation for people with dementia. Stay alert for unexpected reactions that may result from these changes. When appropriate, share the diagnosis with others, such as hotel or shelter staff, family members and airline attendants, so they can better assist. Do not leave the person with dementia alone. Stay together or with a group; it only takes a moment for a person to get lost.

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