Emergency Tips for Dementia and Alzheimer's Response

People living with dementia will be more confused and disoriented in an emergency situation.

They may not be able to appropriately respond and manage emergency/changing situations like a healthy adult.

  • Limit Stimulation
    • Lower noise level, is there a glare from lighting or shadows on the wall, sensations (hot/cold), too many people in room can cause anxiety
    • If you cannot modify the environment try headphones to minimize noise or distract with music, use sunglasses, and layer on clothing
  • Be prepared to assist with all self-care activities
    • Make sure they are drinking and eating. They may not remember to eat or drink
    • Take them to restroom on a regular basis to avoid any potential accidents. They may not remember where the restroom is located.
    • Distract and Redirect
    • Go for a walk
    • Ask them to help (separate cans from boxes or fold blankets)
    • Communication
      • Avoid long, elaborate explanations. Give only NEEDED information and give it one thought at a time
  • Provide constant reassurance
      • “You are safe and in the right place.”
  • Watch their body language like pacing, fidgeting, anxiousness. Do not ignore these signs, intervene before they become a “problem”
  • Anticipate unexpected reactions and wandering issues – do not leave them alone
  • Watch YOUR body language. They will mimic what they see.
  • Do not argue, confront or condescend. They are adults and expect to be treated as adults.
  • Acknowledge and respond to their feelings (not necessarily their words)
      • “You seem scared. I know you are, but you are in a safe place and we are together”
      • Tell others about a diagnosis – volunteers and emergency response teams will be able to better assist you.

ASSISTING CONFUSED ELDERLY.  People living with dementia cannot manage changing situations like a healthy adult. Confusion can lead to panic.  Use the following tips:

LIMIT AGITATION FROM EXCESS NOISE, CROWDS AND DISCOMFORT.  Use headphones with soft music, sunglasses, a snack, and adequate clothing/blankets. 

REASSURE REGULARLY   “I know you are scared.  You are safe and in the right place and we are together.”

USE SIMPLE SENTENCES, SLOWLY, CALMLY.  USE A PLEASANT FACE.  They cannot comprehend complex information.

REDIRECT RESTLESSNESS BY GIVING THEM FOOD, WATER OR A SIMPLE JOB TO DO.

THEY MAY NOT REMEMBER TO EAT, DRINK AND USE THE TOILET.  CHECK OFTEN OR ASSIGN A BUDDY.

COHORT ELDERS NEAR FOOD, WATER AND TOILETS.  ASSIGN VOLUNTEERS TO STAY WITH THEM.

PROVIDE WRISTBANDS WITH NAME, FAMILY NAMES AND CONTACT INFORMATION.