Preparing for Emergencies When Caring for Someone with Dementia

Emergency situations like natural disasters, accidents, and severe weather can be extremely disorienting and distressing for someone with dementia. Advance planning and preparation are key to keeping your loved one safe if an emergency occurs. With some thoughtful effort, you can minimize the risk, fear, and confusion during crises.

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Make an Emergency Plan

Start by putting together a plan that outlines what you will do in various emergency scenarios. Identify evacuation routes and places to meet if you get separated. Inform others in your support system about the plan. Post emergency numbers prominently in your home.

Have a list ready with contact information for doctors, pharmacies, nearby hospitals, and poison control. Put together a medication list with drug names, dosage, usage instructions, and prescribing doctor. Share this with your emergency contacts as well.

Prepare an Emergency Kit

Assemble supplies for at least 3 days into a portable plastic bin or bag. Include a week’s worth of medication and medical necessities like syringes, glucose monitors, and oxygen. Pack comfortable clothing suitable for the climate, extra glasses or contacts, incontinence supplies, and other assistive devices.

Include food and water – canned goods, protein or granola bars, powdered milk, trail mix, and electrolyte drinks. Pack a manual can opener, dishes, utensils, a camping stove, and fuel. A flashlight, batteries, chargers, battery bank, and weather radio are useful too.

Also include cash, copies of ID cards, insurance info, medical papers, and contact lists in waterproof bags. Having pictures of your loved one can also help if they wander off. Include comfort items like books, puzzles, or music players.

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Safety-Proof Your Home

Check that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working and replace batteries regularly. Show your loved one how to use a fire extinguisher. Remove tripping hazards and secure furniture, shelves, and objects that could fall and cause injury during earthquakes.

If power outages could disrupt medical devices like oxygen concentrators, look into getting a generator. Identify nearby shelters, hotels, and other evacuation destinations. If you rely on well water, consider keeping bottled water on hand.

During an Emergency

Stay calm, focus on safety, and evacuate early if needed. Limit exposure to disturbing sights, sounds, and stress. Speak reassuringly and engage your loved one with activities. Keep them near you and remind them that help is coming.

Bring your emergency kit, medication, cell phone chargers, and other necessities. Call your emergency contacts once you reach safety to share your status. Follow directions from authorities and avoid damaged areas.

Caring for Someone with Dementia During Displacement

If you need to stay at a shelter or hotel, ask the staff for help keeping your area quiet and low-stimulation. Explain your loved one’s condition so others understand and assist. Maintain familiar routines as much as possible. Engage with comforting objects, songs, stories, or exercise. Prevent wandering and agitation by staying with them.

Be patient and prepared to remind them where they are and what is happening. Clarify things simply and repeatedly. Try recreational activities like sorting cards or folding laundry. Avoid news and disturbing scenes that could be upsetting. Make sure they eat, drink enough, and get rest. Tell them you are there and will take care of them.

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Seek Support After the Emergency

In the days following, contact your loved one’s doctor about any needs. Call their therapist if trauma, anxiety, or depression arise. Check-in regularly and provide lots of affection and reassurance. With the right preparation and support, you can safely guide your loved one through emergencies.

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