Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease

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Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease

Alice Frame, MA - MDHHS Disabilities Health Unit

An estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s currently, and that number is only expected to increase. It is the 6th leading cause of death in Michigan.  Symptoms include difficultly remembering newly learned information, disorientation, mood and behavior change, confusion, unfounded suspicions. Alzheimer’s is progressive and eventually leads to more serious memory loss and behavior change, and difficulty speaking, walking, and swallowing.

Emergency preparedness is incredibly important for anyone – but extra planning is required for those with health conditions or disabilities.  The Alzheimer’s Association provides many tools and resources to help those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers to be as prepared as possible for emergencies.

Here are some unique concerns to consider when helping someone with Alzheimer’s prepare for an emergency:

  • Prepare an emergency kit. While everyone should have an emergency kit that includes things like important documents, clothing, food/water, and a flashlight, there are a few additional items individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers should include:
    • Medications and medical supplies – include a medication list with dosages and prescribing providers’ names
    • A copy of medical records
    • Incontinence products
    • Identification items – both for the person to carry and for all of their supplies
    • A recent picture of the individual with Alzheimer’s
    • Contact information for the physician treating the person with Alzheimer’s
    • Comfort items
  • Ask about residential facility disaster plans, if the individual with Alzheimer’s lives in a residential facility. Caregivers and family members should be aware of who will be assisting their loved ones in the event of a disaster.
  • Understand how to get emergency medical care and medications – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides guidance how to get medical care, replace durable medical equipment, and obtain prescription drugs in a disaster or emergency area.
  • Consider enrolling the individual with Alzheimer’s in a safety program, such as the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return program, which helps reunite individuals who get separated from caregivers and family members.

The Alzheimer’s Association provides this information and more in the Safety section of the website.