Emergency situations, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, heat waves, fires and blizzards, can have a significant impact on everyone's safety, but they can be especially upsetting and confusing for individuals with dementia. Being prepared is crucial. However, if you find yourself in an emergency situation and you haven't made advance preparations, there are still actions you can take to keep you and the person living with dementia as safe as possible.
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- Make an emergency plan. See the Resources section at the bottom of this page. It has links to websites with helpful planning tips. As part of your plan, prepare an emergency kit. If applicable, make an emergency plan for your pets, including care arrangements in the event you’re not home at the time of the emergency.
- Check weather conditions before leaving the house and make adjustments as needed. For example, if a storm is predicted, consider rescheduling appointments that are not urgent.
- If the person with dementia lives in a residential building or attends an adult day center. Learn about disaster and evacuation plans. Find out who is responsible for evacuating everyone in the event of an emergency.
- Be sure the evacuation plan takes special needs into consideration. For example: If a walker or wheelchair is used, how will accommodations be made?
- If oxygen is used. Be sure there is easy access to portable tanks.
- 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.
- Learn how to get prescription medications and care. Purchase extra medication and keep other supplies well stocked. 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.
- Consider enrolling the person in a wandering response service. MedicAlert® with 24/7 Wandering Support is designed to assist in the return of those who get separated from their caregivers.
- Make sure medical records are accessible. Provide copies of the person’s medical history, a list of medications, physician information and family contacts to people other than a partner or spouse.
Create an emergency kit
If you know a disaster is about to occur
- Move to a safe place.
- If the need to evacuate is likely, do not delay.
- Leave as early as possible to minimize long delays in traffic.
- Alert others — such as family, friends and medical personnel — that you are changing locations and give them your contact information. Update them regularly as you move.
- If you are unprepared for a disaster, remain calm and focus on your immediate safety and the safety of the person living with dementia. If evacuation is necessary, grab the charger for your cell phone before leaving home. Take stock of other resources you can gather quickly, such as bottled water, medication and weather-appropriate clothing.
Consider preparing an emergency kit in a watertight container and store it in an easily accessible location. Be sure to account for your needs (e.g., prescriptions, important documents, extra cell phone chargers) as well as the needs of the person living with dementia. Use waterproof bags to protect medications and paperwork and, if possible, store a backup of important documents in a secure electronic file. Items you may wish to include are:
- A couple of easy-to-change outfits appropriate for the weather conditions.
- Medical documents and supplies of medication (carry a list of medications with dosages).
- Velcro shoes/sneakers.
- A cell phone charger and/or an external power bank.
- A spare pair of eyeglasses, if needed.
- Incontinence products, if needed.
- Extra identification items such as an ID bracelet and clothing tags.
- Copies of legal documents, such as a power of attorney.
- Copies of insurance and Social Security cards.
- Physician’s name, address and phone numbers, including cell phone.
- Recent picture of the person living with dementia.
- Hand lotion or other comfort items.
- Bottled water.
- Non-perishable food, including some liquid meals.
- A favorite item (e.g., book, picture, purse) of the person living with dementia.
- Phone number for the Alzheimer’s Association (800.272.3900).
- If enrolled in the wandering response service, the phone number for the MedicAlert Foundation (800.625.3780) in the event of a wandering incident.
During an evacuation
If you are unprepared for a disaster
- Remain calm and focus on your immediate safety and the safety of the person living with dementia.
- In the event evacuation is necessary, grab the charger for your cell phone before leaving home.
- Take stock of other resources you can gather quickly, such as bottled water, medication and weather-appropriate clothing.
At any 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.
- When appropriate, share the diagnosis with others, such as hotel or shelter staff, family members and airline attendants, so they can better assist.
- Try to stay together or with a group; it only takes a moment to get lost. Do not leave the person living with dementia alone.
- Do your best to remain calm, as this may help reduce anxiety or confusion.
- If you need immediate assistance for an emergency situation, dial 911.
- Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline 800.272.3900.
- The American Red Cross website offers information about preparing for an emergency and where to find shelter and supplies in a disaster.
- Ready.gov has information about what to do before, during and after a disaster.
- The National Hurricane Center provides hurricane alerts and tips to prepare for a hurricane.
- The Humane Society of the United States offers tips on how to keep pets safe in natural disasters and everyday emergencies.