MONTGOMERY , Ala. -- Disasters can be hard to deal with for anyone, but for those who are affected by Alzheimer's disease, the experience can be even scarier and more unsettling. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency recommend that caregivers assisting people with dementia prepare for disasters by planning ahead.
While everyone should have a preparedness strategy for disasters, there are some important steps families and other caregivers can take when they are considering how to look after persons with Alzheimer's.
The Alzheimer's Association recommends the following:
- Establish a safe place to go before a disaster happens.
- Alert family and friends when changing locations.
- Have copies of the person with dementia's medical history, medications and physician information.
- Purchase extra medication.
- Prepare an emergency kit with necessary items (visit www.fema.gov for items to include).
If relocating after a disaster, the change in location plus unfamiliar noises and activities may cause those with Alzheimer's increased stress and confusion . To reduce the trauma, practice these tips:
- Be calm and supportive --remain flexible and patient. Don't leave the person with Alzheimer's alone or with someone who does not know they have dementia.
- Be aware of health needs --ensure proper nutrition and hydration and try to find a doctor and pharmacy as soon as possible.
- Create a safe environment --spend extra time with the person, maintain daily routines, and limit news media exposure to the disaster.
Caregivers should take the precaution of enrolling their loved one in the Safe Return program through the Alzheimer's Association. The support program assists in locating a person with Alzheimer's if they become lost during a disaster. To enroll, call 888-572-8566 . The line is open 24 hours a day.
For more information contact the Alzheimer's Association by calling 800-272-3900 or by visiting www.alz.org.