DAYTON — A massive storm that caused dozens of tornadoes to rip through at least six states over last weekend is an important reminder that families, especially those impacted by Alzheimer’s, must make advance plans to prepare for disasters.
To help families living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias prepare for natural disasters, the Alzheimer’s Association Northwest Ohio Chapter offers important guidance that can save lives during a crisis.
“While there is little anyone can do to prevent these disasters, there are important steps everyone can take to prepare for them,” said Pamela Myers, Alzheimer’s Association Northwest Ohio Chapter program director. “Having preparation plans in place is particularly crucial to help those living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Families should take important measures to plan ahead to prevent injuries and help the person with dementia feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed during an emergency.”
To help families and caregivers, the Association’s disaster plan outline and resources cover topics such as:
• Take specific needs into account. For example, if the person with Alzheimer's or other dementia uses a walker or portable oxygen, be sure emergency evacuation plans accommodate these needs.
• Identify those who will help you. Are there friends or relatives you can stay with if you have to evacuate? If the person receives routine health procedures at a clinic or with home health, who are the back-up service providers? Have contact information easily accessible.
• If an individual lives in a residential facility, learn about its disaster/evacuation plans. Find out who is responsible for evacuating the person in the event of an emergency.
• Learn how to get prescriptions and care. Purchase extra medication to have a supply on hand. Download Medicare's Getting Care and Drugs in a Disaster Area. It explains how Medicare beneficiaries have special rights to get out-of-network care if they live in an area where the president has declared a disaster.
Prepare an emergency kit
Being prepared in case of an emergency is crucial. Put together an emergency kit in a watertight container, and store it in an easily accessible location. They should include items important to the current pandemic as well as other items specifically important for people living with dementia, such things as:
• Insurance information and Social Security cards.
• Several sets of extra clothing, face masks, hand sanitizers, antibacterial wipes and cleaning supplies.
• Supplies of medication (or, at least, a list of medications and dosages).
• Spare pair of eyeglasses.
• Recent picture of the person with dementia (in case they wander or get lost).
• Physician’s name, address and phone numbers, including cell phone.
• Stay current on guidance and updated emergency plans from state and local public agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Red Cross, as it may affect your action and available resources and facilities.
• Learn about your community’s response plan for each disaster and determine if these plans have been adapted because of COVID-19.
• Local public agencies and law enforcement often use social media as a resource to inform the community about current events by issuing warnings and sharing real-time information that protects the public in emergencies such as weather events.
Special Considerations During COVID-19
During COVID-19, some states adjusted evacuation plans to accommodate for the pandemic. This may mean less room is available at shelters or new shelters may have been added. It is important to check with local agencies to make sure you have the latest information.
Utilize the help that is available in creating a plan:
•· The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website offers comprehensive guidance for preparing and responding to natural disasters and severe weather. (Available in English and Spanish.)
• The American Red Cross website offers information about preparing for an emergency and where to find shelter and supplies in a disaster.
• The National Hurricane Center provides hurricane alerts and tips to prepare for a hurricane.
• Ready.gov has information about what to do before, during and after a disaster.
Alzheimer’s Association offers Preparing for Emergencies on its website. This important guidance can be life-saving during a crisis.
Call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.