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Disasters & Alzheimer's Disease
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Disasters & Alzheimer's Disease


In disaster situations, people with dementia:
  • are prone to hide or wander
  • are easily agitated
  • may forget directions
  • are especially sensitive to trauma
Response Techniques that may help reduce anxiety include:
  • Provide one-to-one instructions where to go and what to do
  • Use simple language
  • Do not leave the person alone, find someone who can stay with them to offer reassurance
  • Move the individual to a quiet place if possible
  • Use distraction to reduce anxiety or agitation
  • Be aware of the person's non-verbal communication. Pay attention to cues that the person may be overwhelmed (pacing, fidgeting)
  • Reassure the person by holding hands, or putting a hand on their shoulder
  • Find outlets for anxious energy, take a walk with the person or perform simple tasks (e.g. Folding laundry)
  • Redirect the person's attention if he or she becomes upset
  • Check that they have their medications
  • Try to make sure they are eating regular meals
  • Avoid elaborate or detailed explanations, provide information using concrete terms. Follow brief explanations with reassurance
  • Remind the person that he/she is in the right place

During an Episode of Agitation:

  • Approach the person from the front at eye level and use his/her name
  • Use calm, positive statements and patient, low-pitched voice
  • Respond to the emotions being expressed rather than content of the words. For example, say, "You're frightened and want to go home. It's ok. I'm right here with you."
  • Don't argue with their person or try to correct. Instead reaffirm his/her experience, reassure and try to divert attention. For example, "The noise in this shelter is frightening. Let's see if we can find a quieter spot. Let's look at your photo book together."

Disasters & Wandering

  • During a disaster situation, someone with dementia is confused and anxious, and the probability of wandering increases.
  • Prepare wandering before a natural disaster occurs by enrolling the individual in MedicAlert+SafeReturn, Comfort Zone or Project Lifesaver. For more information contact us at, 800.272.3900.
  • Because of the potential danger to the subject in a wandering incident, it is important to take action as soon as possible. Because of Silver Alert, first responders can begin searching for this individual immediately upon being reported.
  • Often times a person with dementia will, in their mind, return to an earlier time in their life. This can result in a confusing situation for all parties involved, particularly because the person truly believes they are right. Don't argue, but reassure the person and assist with getting them to a safe place and/or in contact with a loved one or caregiver. Since the person may not remember where they now live, returning them safely can be a challenge.  


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Alzheimer's Association

Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's
Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.