Monday, April 5, 2010

Preparing for a Disaster

Our Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers are located throughout San Diego County, which, as many of you now know, was impacted by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake emanating from nearby Mexicali on Easter Sunday.

Damage to the Southern California area was minimal, but the event served as a good reminder for caregivers to have an Emergency Preparedness Plan. Afterall, 75% of all American households are at risk for one or more natural distasters, according to The Hartford Group and the MIT AgeLab.

The following advice is from The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab’s guidebook, The Calm Before the Storm: Family Conversations about Disaster Planning, Caregiving, Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. It’s based on extensive interviews nationwide with caregivers.

1. Talk with Family & Friends. Establish a disaster support network with multiple lines of support in case disaster strikes them too.
2. Meet with Professional Caregivers. If your loved one attends an adult day care, resides in a skilled nursing facility or receives home health care, review the agency’s policy in the event of a disaster.
3. Research Where You Would Go. Discuss the best evacuation plan for your situation. It may be to stay with non-impacted family or friends, a hotel or an American Red Cross shelter. Know what you can bring from home in any of these settings.
4. Consider ‘Special Needs’ Shelters. Some parts of the country offer shelters specifically designated for people with health issues who cannot function in a regular emergency shelter environment. Ask your health care provider or local American Red Cross where the nearest special needs shelter is typically located in your community.
5. Plan for Pets. Find out if pets are allowed and, if they are not, find out if there’s a place that will accept animals. Separating from a pet during a crisis is difficult; for people with Alzheimer’s it can be quite traumatic because pets provide reassurance and have a calming effect.
6. Develop a Disaster Kit. Along with the typical emergency items like flashlights, portable radio, batteries, bottled water and canned goods, kit contents should include: current photo of your loved one and some identification; ID bracelet for them to wear; insurance cards; a list of all medications, allergies and special needs and enough medication to last 7 to 10 days; eyeglasses and hearing aids and batteries; names and phone numbers for all doctors and pharmacies; financial information to access bank accounts and checks, along with a copy of a power of attorney and medical directives. Finally, make sure you, as a caregiver, include your own ID, insurance cards, prescriptions, etc.