, Port Arthur, Texas

Tropical Weather

May 28, 2014

Evacuating with the elderly requires extra planning

Hearing the official announcement to evacuate can raise stress levels. Adding to the urgency of the situation can be the need to ensure one has the essential needs for the elderly members of the family.

Orange Villa Nursing and Rehabilitation Administrator Dawn Huckinson said it is important to have medical information in one place for any type of emergency.

“This is vital information needed for any situation including if the EMTs are called or the police are doing a welfare check on an individual because they have not been seen in a couple of days,” Huckinson said. “A Life Care Capsule will have all the information needed for emergency personnel and a magnet on the refrigerator door will inform them to look  inside.”

Life Care Capsule resembles a tall brown medicine bottle with information inside such as next of kin, a list of doctors, as well as medications including dosages and strength.

“We give them out at health fairs,” Huckinson said. “It is important to have the list made out ahead of time. It would not hurt to have a couple of days worth of medication on supply to grab quick if needed or to at least know what to grab from Mom’s cabinet during an evacuation.”

Huckinson also suggests a personal bag not only for the older members of the family but for children as well.

“A large bag with a person’s name on it has everything we need to be able to move quickly to evacuate,” Huckinson said. “It includes a hospital type bracelet which includes their name, allergies, birth date, doctor’s name and if they are a DNR or full code. This is good idea for everyone in the family because what if, God forbid, there was an accident during the evacuation and the family became separated?”

A do not resuscitate order (DNR) is a medical order written by a doctor. It instructs health care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if breathing stops or if the heart stops beating.

A DNR order allows one to choose before an emergency occurs whether one wants CPR. It is a decision only about CPR, according to the National Institutes of Health website.

Huckinson said the facility has a bag ready for each patient at the facility.

“It really is something everyone should have at home as well,” Huckinson said. “It is for immediate access and the next couple of hours during the evacuation.”

The large gallon size plastic bag includes a personal belongings bag for items such as briefs or incontinence protection and a change of clothing. A pillow case can hold pertinent medical information as well as snacks during travel. A bracelet similar to those used at hospitals.

The bracelets are available in a wide range of colors at carnival or party supply stores.

“They have some very bright colored ones as an option,” Huckinson said.

A large bag for carrying medication is included in the kit.

“Including information such as insurance and their main language is important as well,” Huckinson said.

Those suffering from dementia are also in need of as many familiar things as one can during an evacuation.

“A favorite pillow or picture is important,” Huckinson said. “The change of settings can create confusion for them, so they need something familiar to hold onto for comfort.”

Lavender essential oil on a tissue or a few drops on the pocket can also help relax an individual with dementia during the evacuation.

“Try not to scare them,” Huckinson said. “Don’t lie to them, but stress that leaving is a precautionary measure and it is a good time to go.”

Huckinson said to avoid long involved discussions concerning the approaching storm with the person as the disease will not permit them to hold onto the information and could cause them to become more scared or confused than needed in the situation.

Steps for Hurricane Preparedness fact sheet from the Alzheimer’s Association also suggest staying calm as the person will take cues from the caregiver. Continuance reassurance will also help with anxiety and agitation.

Alzheimer’s Association also suggest using lantern style flashlights instead of spotlights to avoid creating shadows in rooms. Shadows and darkness can heighten confusion during the storm. Designating an area as a comfort zone will also assist in decreasing stimulation and agitation.

Alzheimer’s Association Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter Education Manager Sarah E. Taylor said identification and hydration are extremely important during an evacuation.

“Make sure you have a close up and current picture of the person with Alzheimer’s disease,” Taylor said in an e-mail. “Dehydration can exacerbate agitation in persons with dementia.”

Making the decision early to stay in place or to evacuate needs to be made early according to Taylor.

“Let your friends and family know your plans,” Taylor said. “You will need to recruit help to make sure you get plenty of rest, food and fluids. Like the airplane analogy, ‘place the oxygen mask over your own nose and mouth first before assisting someone else.”

Alzheimer’s Association hotline is 800-272-3900 for more information and suggestion for evacuating with a person suffering from dementia.


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