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Coping with Dementia: Hurricane Season brings Special Challenges

By Debbie Selsalvage Posted on June 16, 2020

Floridians understand how to prepare for seasonal bad weather, but for families living with dementia, hurricane season can present special challenges.

Individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia do not have the benefit of memory, so they cannot reassure themselves from the knowledge that most tropical storms do little or no damage.  For them, every harsh weather experience can be frightening. 

Just being moved from their home or community to a strange shelter may be upsetting because it shatters their routine and confronts them with an unfamiliar environment.

Care providers can plan for a weather emergency by creating a kit that contains at least three days of supplies.  This kit should be assembled in advance and stored away.  Do not try to assemble your kit at the last minute, and especially not in the presence of your loved one, which could cause anxiety and panic.

Plan for Hurricane Season with a special Alzheimer’s Caregiver Kit

  • Easy on/off comfortable clothes (a couple of sets)
  • Easy on/off comfortable shoes/sneakers
  • Blanket or jacket
  • Second pair of eyeglasses
  • Incontinence products, wipes
  • Toiletry supplies for three to four days
  • Personal identification (ID bracelets, clothing tags)
  • Human scent preservation kit
  • Medication and use/dosage information in a Ziploc bag
  • Legal documents in a Ziploc bag
  • List of emergency contact numbers
  • A recent photo of your loved one with vital information on the back
  • Battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Portable music device with earphones to shut out noise
  • Simple activities such as cards, photo albums, scrapbooks, coloring books
  • Cell phone recharger
  • Favorite drinks and snacks
  • A tracking device for your loved one

Know your evacuation route and pre-register at your county’s special needs shelter in case you have to evacuate.  If possible, staying with a neighbor, family member, or a friend may be a better alternative than a public shelter since your loved one may accept it as a more “normal” environment.

If your loved one lives in a professional care community, become familiar with its disaster and evacuation plan so you will not be faced with last-minute surprises.

As a general rule, plan in advance, stay calm, and look for ways to continue the activities your loved one likes and understands.

For more information, contact the National Institute on Aging which offers an extensive disaster planning toolkit.  Go to www.nia.nih/health/disaster-preparedness-alzheimers-caregivers.

E-mail or call me to learn about how to join our online dementia care partner support groups.  They’re free!

Debbie Selsavage is a Certified Trainer and Consultant in the Positive Approach to Care and a Certified Dementia Practitioner.  She authors a monthly column to assist caregivers in coping with Dementia. Her company, Coping with Dementia LLC is dedicated to making life better for individuals living with dementia.  Contact Debbie at [email protected].

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