You go to great lengths to care for your loved one with dementia, but weather emergencies can disrupt even the best care plans. Your loved one’s fear, confusion or agitation can make the situation worse, possibly dangerous. Understanding the need for a calm approach during a crisis is crucial in successfully protecting you both. Here are a few tips to help you and your loved one prepare:
- Organize an emergency kit in a waterproof container with important documents (insurance, legal, medical), extra medications, medical contacts, an identification bracelet, shoes and clothing easy to slip on and off, spare eyeglasses, portable oxygen tank (if applicable), recent photos of your loved one, a familiar memento and other vital supplies. Then store in an easily accessible location.
- Create an evacuation plan that identifies a safe place. Inform other family members or medical professionals of plan details. Provide them with copies of medical information and contacts.
- (If you must evacuate) Leave as early as possible to avoid sudden departures and long delays.
- Remember, do not leave your loved one alone. In an unfamiliar place, he or she may wander to try to return home or find someone familiar.
- Remain calm—your loved one can sense your uneasiness or panic even through simple body language. Take a deep breath and use a patient, even-toned voice.
- Use positive statements, reassuring your loved one you have the situation under control despite what actually may be happening. He or she likely will take your lead.
- When necessary, share simple explanations in definitive terms. Affirm his or her feelings rather than argue, followed by reassurance.
- Be aware of any changes in your loved one’s behavior or increased anxiety and continue to provide comfort. If you are in a loud place, move to a quieter location to limit stimulation. If possible, engage him or her in simple, familiar tasks.
- Attempt to maintain a routine like taking medications, eating and sleeping at the usual times.
- (If your loved one receives in-home care or lives at a retirement community) Consult with the care team to understand the company’s emergency policy.
Stay safe and be sure to take care of yourself too.