A natural disaster is a frightening and life-threatening experience for everyone, and especially for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
With the many recent and devastating hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and other acts of nature that have taken over the news, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of safety tips to help our loved ones with dementia prepare for events like these.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, when disaster strikes or the weather gets rough, people with dementia can be “especially vulnerable” to chaos and confusion. They may not remember that a hurricane was forecast, or what they are supposed do when they feel an earthquake. This confusion can result in a potentially dangerous anxiety attack.
If a loved one is experiencing an anxiety attack during or after a disaster, the Alzheimer’s Association shares a few tips for soothing the person:
- Give a gentle touch: Holding hands or gently patting the person’s arm is a sign which tells them they have support and everything will be alright.
- Move to a quiet area, if possible, and limit the stimulation in that space.
- Try to redirect the person’s attention – tell a funny story, talk about your day, talk about the plans and things you would like to do once the temporary disaster has passed.
- Don’t go into detail about the disaster as it occurs, but if you must, always use concrete terms – if you are uncertain, your loved one will sense that.
- Keep your loved one’s attention on small, controllable factors, not the disaster as it is occurring.
The most important way to make sure your loved one is prepared is to simply be there. If a natural disaster is in the forecast, make sure your loved one is not alone. A loved one with dementia prone to wandering is dangerous in the most ideal situations; during a disaster it could turn deadly. Onora offers day care if an aging loved one needs supervision for a few hours or respite care for a few days.
For more information about preparing a loved one for disasters, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website. And for information on Onora’s day or respite services, call us at 732-695-0269.