Preparation is the optimum word and especially important during this active hurricane season. Having an emergency-preparedness kit is something you can create now, which would be the first steps in coordinating a successful disaster plan for you and your loved one.
A good emergency-preparedness kit includes: bottled water (at least a three-day supply/1 gallon per day per person); breakfast and energy bars and food that doesn't require cooking; personal hygiene items; spare prescription glasses/contacts; a least a two-week supply of medications and medical supplies; assisted living devices and batteries; extra identification, including ID bracelet; recent photo of person with Alzheimer's or dementia; photocopies of important documents, such as medical history, bank/credit card numbers, insurance card/policies; wills and power of attorney; charged cellphone with extra batteries, flashlight; minimum of three days worth of cash; keys for house and car and spare keys; map of evacuation routes; comfort items such as a blanket and pillow; various items for entertainment such as books, games, music CDs or iPods; and pet supplies if needed.
Keep all valuable items and personal papers in plastic bags or waterproof containers. It's also helpful to put all important information onto a portable drive for easy transportation during the disaster. Carry your cellphone and charger with you at all times.
When a disaster occurs, make sure you and your loved one go to a safe place and that you notify family and friends of your location and contact information. If you are the primary caregiver, it is advantageous to have someone else in the family have copies of all the important personal and medical information of your loved one.
During the emergency or disaster, it might be difficult to prioritize or keep things in perspective and to remain calm and reassuring. Keep in mind your loved one's insecurities and his/her inability to express fears or worries, or even an understanding of what is going on. Your loved one could pick up on your emotions, and become more confused, disoriented and anxious.
During a disaster, look at the surrounding environment of your loved one. It is not advised that they watch any TV coverage of the event or listen to the radio. In fact, everyone in the household should limit TV coverage as studies have shown that endless watching can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. You will need to provide constant reassurance and comfort to your loved one, providing some kind of activity to redirect his or her attention from the events. Additionally, as much as possible, maintain routine and structure as he or she will be calmer when schedules are kept.
Be sure to take care of yourself. Stay connected with others as much as possible and lean on them for support. Try to nurture yourself as you care for your loved one to make a very challenging and difficult time less stressful and more peaceful.
For more detailed procedures in disaster situations, including tips and strategies in managing care, contact Alzheimer's Services for a copy of the organization's Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Manual.