Hurricane Crisis & Alzheimer's Disease
What to do Before, During and After
by Myra W. Darwish, PhD, APRN, BC, HNC
Things to consider pre-hurricane
- Keep calm and reach out for support for yourself. Have the your local crisis hotline (or an Alzheimer's resource in your area) handy and stay connected with friends, family, and support group members. Reach out to your Family Nurse Consultant for support and guidance.
- Gather all necessary supplies (A battery operated radio, important papers, incontinent supplies, nutritional items, hand wipes, an ice chest with ice, medications, etc.) that you could possibly need in a gathering place in your home for both yourself and your loved one. Ask your physician for renewals of routine medications as well as those medications which can be given in an emergency situation, which could decrease anxiety, agitation, and promote sleep. A chest with ice cubes inside is valuable to have so that the body can be kept cool.
- Purchase individual water bottles that you can drink from even if they are at room temperature
- Make your decision early as to whether you will be doing one of the following:
Staying home; staying with friends or relatives; relocating outside the area; or going to a shelter. Let Family Nurse Consultants, family, neighbors, and friends know what your plans are just as soon as you firmly decide!Depending on what your initial decision is, listen carefully to emergency reports, road conditions, etc.
- Have an identification bracelet, or other source of identification placed on your loved one. This will greatly reduce your anxiety should you become separated for any reason.
- It is essential that you take care of your needs so that you can care for your loved one! Consider fluids and nutrition for yourself, as well as placing items in your gathering place which will provide both of you a source of comfort (pictures, sayings, objects).
- Even in the midst of it all maintain your sense of humor, and remember the challenges that you have overcome in the past and the strengths you have derived from them.
- Expect to have increased stress no matter what you finally decide to do, and consider stress reduction techniques which have helped you in the past. These are important questions to bring up at your support groups.
- Learn the plans of your doctor or HMO.
- Contact your insurance agent to insure adequate coverage.
Whether you have decided to stay at home, stay with local friends or relatives, relocate outside the area, or go to a shelter, expect that the event of a hurricane in and of itself will exacerbate stress levels (both yours and your loved one). The response to all this added stress will increase the potential for agitation of your loved one. Increased agitation increases the demands for a safe environment wherever you are. There is value in recognizing that dehydration can have the effect of increasing irritability and exacerbate any potential agitation. A water supply is critical to your and your loved one's well being!
- Anticipate an increased stress response during the hurricane experience and/or leaving the hurricane area and the need to administer emergency medication ordered by the health care provider.
- Expect that the environment may be misperceived by your loved one wherever you are by the very nature of the change that a hurricane brings (darker, hotter, different than normal), and attempt to have a comfort zone where there is some stability and predictability (pillow, battery-operated tape recorder with soothing sounds, etc.).
- Work on decreasing your anxiety level, deep breathing, comforting touch, etc.
You have been through a challenging experience, and it is wise to expect that your life pre-hurricane will not return to normal immediately. Think about THE MOST IMPORTANT PRIORITIES:
- Water for hydration to avoid any serious medical complications
- Ice for cooling (try under the armpits)
- Food supply for nutrition this is the time not to worry about having the perfect meal (a can of bean will offer both protein and carbohydrates; purchase nutrition bars which are caloric dense and don't require cooling
- Medications for maintenance of health conditions
- Staying calm in a difficult situation
- Attempt to connect with others if you are alone
- Listen carefully via battery-operated radio for current information
- Don't touch fallen or low-hanging wires!
- Conserve your refrigeration and use bottled water at room temperature as well as canned food sources. Open your cooler ONLY for ice or medication storage.
Find more info on Safety and Injury Prevention in our Reading Room.