We all hope that an emergency situation never occurs, but it’s always best to be ready. People with dementia and Alzheimer’s are at increased risk for anxiety and wandering during an emergency. For caregivers, a bit of extra preparation can go a long way.
Here are 7 tips from first aid to disaster planning that can help decrease the stress around potential emergencies. If you need urgent assistance in an emergency, always dial 911.
1) Do your best to stay calm. Speak to your loved one firmly but gently. If you have time, explain what you are going to do with each step and repeat as needed.
2) Look for nonverbal cues that demonstrate fear. Loud noises and seeing people agitated may increase distress in your loved one. Acknowledge if they are scared and remind them you are there. If other people or medical professionals come to help you, advise them of your loved one’s condition.
3) Familiarize yourself with tips to avoid falls and choking as well as first aid basics. Consider taking a first aid course — your doctor, support group, or Alzheimer’s Association chapter may be able to recommend one.
4) Have an emergency kit in a waterproof container that you can grab and go. It should include:
- flashlight and extra batteries
- phone charger
- water and nonperishable food for at least 3 days
- changes of clothes
- toileting supplies
- a soft pillow or favorite comfort item
- prescriptions and a list of medications, dosages, and frequency
- your doctors’ names and phone numbers
- copies of your ID, health insurance, health care proxy, and a recent photo of your loved one with his/her name on them
5) If you live in an area at risk for hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters, know your best evacuation route along with your local shelter and hotels or family/friends’ homes outside the risk zone where you could go. Share your plan with loved ones.
6) If you must evacuate, try to leave quickly to avoid traffic and listen to local weather reports and authorities’ guidance. If possible, distract your loved one with an item or small task as you prepare to leave. Explain the situation simply, such as, “We have to leave now. I will be with you and we are going to a safe place.” You may want to discuss happy memories or a calming scene as you go.
7) Try to remain with your loved one or with a small group of people to reduce the chance of wandering. Get an ID bracelet and consider enrolling in the Alzheimer’s Association Wandering Support Program—an identification and support service for people with dementia—in case he/she becomes lost.
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