Disaster preparedness tips for families dealing with dementia


By Jim Herlihy | Alzheimer’s Association

September is National Preparedness Month and a peak time for natural disasters, such as fires that have ravaged the American West. 

While there is little anyone can do to prevent these disasters, there are important steps everyone can take to prepare for them, which is particularly crucial for families caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.

Having preparation plans in place is particularly crucial to help those living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Taking important measures to plan ahead can prevent injuries and help the person with the disease feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed if an emergency situation occurs.

To help families facing Alzheimer’s and other dementias prepare for natural disasters, the Alzheimer’s Association offers important guidance that can be lifesaving during a crisis, including:

• Plan ahead. Being prepared in case of an emergency is crucial. 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 plans accommodate specific needs, such as personal protective equipment, a walker or portable oxygen.

• Prepare an emergency kit or “go 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, face masks, cleaning supplies, necessary medications and identification items. Make sure medical and health records are accessible and attainable by people other than the primary caregiver.

• Help people living with dementia during an evacuation. If the need to evacuate is likely, do not delay. Leave as early as possible to minimize long delays in traffic. Even in the early stage of Alzheimer’s, changes in routine, traveling and new environments may increase the risk for wandering and agitation. Stay alert for unexpected reactions that may result from these changes.

Today, there are more than 6.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 76,000 in Colorado. To learn more, go to www.alz.org or call the free Alzheimer’s Association Helpline at (800) 272-3900.