Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Foundation of America

Hurricane Preparedness Information for Floridians Caring for a Loved One with Dementia

With Hurricane Ian Approaching, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Offers Emergency Preparedness Tips for Family Caregivers to Help Protect Their Loved Ones with Dementia

(September 26, 2022)— With Hurricane Ian approaching Florida, potentially bringing dangerous winds, rain, and flooding in the coming days, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing important emergency preparedness information to help Floridians caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related illness get ready in case a storm strikes their area.

“Families across Florida are preparing for the potential impacts of Hurricane Ian, and there are a few additional steps those caring for a loved one living with dementia should take, both before and during the storm,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President & CEO. “Being proactive and prepared are two of the best things caregivers can do to help keep their loved ones as safe and calm as possible.”

AFA is offering the following tips to dementia family caregivers in Florida, which are in addition to any other emergency preparedness steps or actions advised by first responders or governmental/emergency management agencies:

In advance of the storm:

  • Gather some small, familiar items that bring comfort and reduce stress to the person living with dementia, such as family photos, books or a mobile device that can play favorite songs. Keep them on-hand and accessible to use during the storm.
  • When preparing an evacuation plan, choose the method of travel and time of travel that provides the most comfort and least anxiety to the greatest extent possible. Do your best to maintain the person’s normal routine; eat, sleep, and take medications at the same time as a regular day. If the person uses a walker or portable oxygen, be sure your evacuation plan can accommodate those needs.
  • If you are traveling via mass transit or are staying in a hotel or shelter, advise them that you are traveling with someone who has dementia. 
  • If the person receives home care, inquire with the home care provider about what the backup or contingency plans are to deliver services.
  • If the person is in a care setting, find out the setting’s plan if an evacuation is needed.
  • Prepare ID information, such as a contact card, that an individual living with dementia can keep on them in case they become separated from their caregiver. Be sure to include a local emergency contact person on the card who first responders can call, as well as someone who lives outside the area in case local communications become disabled.
  • Make copies of important health, legal and insurance documentation, as well as contact information for your loved one’s doctors.  
  • Have medications, a list of medications, doses, dietary restrictions, allergies, and other medical information on hand. Inquire about getting additional refills in advance of the storm with your loved one’s doctor.  
  • Store all documents and medications in waterproof bags. Bring them with you if you need to evacuate.
  • Make sure the person’s medical history, medication list, and physician contact information is accessible to another trusted individual.
  • Ensure that you have a supply of non-perishable food and water. Be mindful of dehydration, which can cause delirium and death. Fully charge cell phones and tablets in advance and have flashlights (not candles) easily accessible in case of power failure.

During the storm:

  • Limit stimulation as much as possible; try to stay in a quiet place.
  • Pay attention to cues that the person may be overwhelmed, scared, or upset.
  • Do what you can to keep them calm. Gentle touch, such as holding hands or putting your arms on their shoulders, can be very helpful. Reassure them that everything will be ok and that they are safe.  
  • Utilize favorite comfort items to redirect the person’s attention to something positive.

Caregivers should also pay close attention to the instructions issued by first responders, local governments and emergency management offices in their area and have the contact information for those agencies on hand should they have any questions.

AFA’s Helpline, which is staffed entirely by licensed social workers, is available to provide information, assistance, and support to caregivers to the greatest extent possible, including answering questions such as:

  • How can I keep my loved one calm and feel safe?
  • What steps can I take to deal with the additional stress and anxiety?
  • Are there ways to handle the disruptions to my loved one’s daily routine?
  • What steps can I take to reduce the likelihood that my loved one wanders from home, particularly at night?
  • What can I do to help prevent or reduce agitation?

Families can connect with the AFA Helpline, seven days a week, by calling 866-232-8484, sending a text message to 646-586-5283 or web chatting by clicking the blue and white chat icon in the lower corner of the page. The web chat and text message features can provide services in over 90 languages.