Dementia Caregivers Should Plan for Natural and All Other Disasters

Emergency planning has been essential as Floridians grapple with Hurricane Ian

Ray Burow avatar

by Ray Burow |

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I live in Florida with my family. As I write this, shortly after Hurricane Ian made landfall, more than a million people at points north and west of us are without power. My thoughts and prayers are with those folks hunkered down in dark, shuttered homes and shelters.

By the time this is published, the statistics will have rolled in with the number of devastated houses and loss of life. We hope for the best.

My mind is turning to caregivers, their loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, and older adults. Your mind is probably wandering in the same direction if you’re a caregiver. And how are residents in nursing facilities faring?

Hopefully, preparation for the situation is making a difference. I hope you never face a disaster like this, but with the world as it is, it pays to hope, pray for the best, and prepare for the worst.

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Prepare for the worst

The Boy Scouts’ motto is “Be prepared.” The story goes that the Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell was questioned about the statement when a reporter asked, “Prepared for what?”

Reportedly, Baden-Powell answered, “Why, for any old thing” — a good sentiment, but with due respect to the Scouts, nearly impossible to accomplish. When you don’t know what to expect, how do you prepare?

In caregiving, make a list and check it more than once. Your caregiving days are already planned if you care for a loved one at home. Think about your daily tasks and how you can take them on the road. What’s the first thing you do each morning? Begin there. Is helping your loved one get dressed and administering medication the first responsibility? Attention to hygiene and showers? Start your list there. Following are some basics.

  1. Medications
  2. Comfortable travel clothes
  3. Pajamas
  4. Toothbrush, toothpaste
  5. Washcloths
  6. Soap
  7. Underwear
  8. Outerwear
  9. Important documents
  10. Cash

Follow instructions, including evacuation plans from your local authorities. Travel as far as needed to get out of harm’s way. Decide if it’s best to settle in a shelter, hotel, or with friends and family. Pack your loved one’s government-issued identification and bring along all necessary papers, including their Social Security card, birth and marriage certificates, health insurance card, and prescriptions.

Make a copy of the Social Security card, insurance card, and instructions on taking the medicines. Secure the information and the drugs in a waterproof container. Don’t forget your banking information, and take along cash as well. Don’t risk banks being closed and ATMs being out of operation.

Nursing facilities during a natural disaster

By law, providers who participate in Medicare and Medicaid must follow emergency preparedness guidelines. The following from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services summarizes those requirements.

“… plan adequately for both natural and man-made disasters, and coordinate with federal, state, tribal, regional, and local emergency preparedness systems. [The regulation] will also assist providers and suppliers to adequately prepare to meet the needs of patients, residents, clients, and participants during disasters and emergency situations. Despite some variations, our regulations will provide consistent emergency preparedness requirements, enhance patient safety during emergencies for persons served by Medicare- and Medicaid-participating facilities, and establish a more coordinated and defined response to natural and man-made disasters.”

Suppose your loved one lives in a nursing facility sanctioned by Medicare or Medicaid. In that case, an organized plan should be in place in the event of an emergency, but it’s essential that you’re aware of the plan and what it entails.

Learn if the facility is an approved Medicare or Medicaid facility and request information on its goals during an emergency. The facility should have a plan for sheltering in place, but also for evacuations. A communication plan that includes family members and the resident’s physician should also be included.

It’s unlikely that caregivers can prepare “for any old thing” since we can’t know the future, but to the degree that it’s possible, let’s prepare for the worst and pray for the best.

Godspeed to the Florida caregivers, their loved ones, and all in desperate, emergency situations here and elsewhere.

Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


Donna Thomson avatar

Donna Thomson

Hello to everyone affected by hurricane Ian - I am writing from Canada and everyones hearts here are with you. Thank you for the informative and very helpful advice on being prepared. I want to add too though, that caregivers need support in order to mobilise our skills that can at the least be community building and the most be life-saving during a natural disaster. Here is an article that I wrote a couple of years ago about exactly this topic:
Warm wishes from Canada, Donna Thomson

Linda Gooding avatar

Linda Gooding

Hello and a very warm good morning to our friends across the border to our south.
I’m Canadian(Nova Scotia ) and some in this province did not escape the recent “Fiona”Hurricane. As with most serious weather events, plans can be made, however storms such as this have a one track- “destruction” , and will obliterate anything in its path. Here on the south coast of our province, we here in Chester were destruction free, with the exception of a few power outages. Pictures of Ian’s destruction in your neck of the woods are unbelievable. Unimaginable, heartbreaking really . We’ve vacationed in FL, the Carolinas and Georgia and love love your country. Rebuilding will take time , so be patient. You will get there

Linda and Gary Gooding
Chester Nova Scotia

Ray Burow avatar

Ray Burow

Thank you, Linda! How nice of you to comment. Thank you also for your lovely words about the United States. I hope you'll come for another visit (if you can tear yourself away from beautiful Canada). We're grateful for all of our Canadian friends. May God keep you and safe and sound within His care.


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