Weathering the Storm

When a natural disaster occurs, chances are, you will have no time to stop and think. Caring for a loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s during this situation will have you potentially facing two major disasters; the oncoming storm and the mass confusion of the patient.

All through the years of caring for my dad, I dealt with my share of problems, even just during typical Florida thunderstorms. When our electricity would go out for even an hour, my father would become quite alarmed. During one particular storm he became quite upset, constantly opening our refrigerator, demanding to know why the light inside would not work. Meanwhile, all we had were a couple of candles and a few flashlights which only added to his confusion.

If you find yourself in such a situation, chances are you cannot rely on other people for help as they will probably be caught up in making their own preparations.

In the event of an impending hurricane or storm, loved ones will most likely be frightened and uncooperative. The decision to evacuate may have to be made. This can prove to be exceedingly difficult for anyone who is memory impaired. Any change in routine—never mind a change in surroundings—will be very disturbing for them.

If this should happen to you, plan ahead. Research where it is you may need to go. If you have a relative or friend’s home to which you plan on evacuating, try to get there early enough so your loved one can be settled into his or her new environment. Prepare a checklist for a substitute caregiver listing the patient’s daily habits and anything that can help to soothe him or her.

Be prepared with an evacuation kit that contains copies of the power of attorney, financial papers and also a list of doctors and medications. Have a directory consisting of family members or potential caregivers with the patient’s doctors’ names and locations and contact numbers. Make copies of this list and place one in your loved one’s wallet or purse and the other in yours, in the event you should get separated.

Pack a bag containing medications and incontinence products if needed, along with a photo album or something you know might keep him or her at peace.

Consider pets as well. My dad was very fond of our cat and sometimes seemed to care more for the cat than himself during his time of battling this disease. I assured him that his pet’s welfare would be well looked after.

Do the best to maintain a calm demeanor and have a positive conversation with your patient. Be reassuring that you’re there to assist in his or her needs. Be prepared, for it will probably be necessary to repeat yourself often throughout this ordeal. It’s essential that you don’t get yourself into a frenzy. The calmer you appear, the less unnerved he or she will become.

When your loved one is settled down and safe, then if need be, go back and secure your home. Being followed around while attempting to board the place up will only turn into another disaster.

The best thing you can do is be prepared comfortably ahead of time. This isn’t going to be an easy task; you’re just going to have to wade through it.

Your local chamber of commerce will have all the information you need in the event it becomes necessary to seek out a public shelter which can best suit your needs. But keep in mind, people suffering from dementia do not perform well in noisy, crowded places.