FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | October 25, 2005
Alzheimer's Foundation of America Offers Post-Hurricane Coping Techniques
For the increasing number of families in Florida coping with loved ones with Alzheimer's disease, Hurricane Wilma and similar tragedies can turn worlds already turned upside down by dementia into even more chaos.
“This is another example where being educated, being prepared can provide some comfort to families amidst the turmoil. Knowing how to care for loved ones in this type of crisis will make it less overwhelming,” said Eric J. Hall, chief executive officer of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA).
Rosemary Hudgins, executive director, Alzheimer's Services of the South-Mississippi Division, Gulfport, MS, lived through this scenario when Hurricane Katrina hit last August. Hudgins and her mother, who has Alzheimer's disease, had safely evacuated to family in Alabama in advance of the hurricane. About a week later, although Hudgins was happy to return to find her still-standing home in Gulfport, she confronted many new challenges.
“We were faced with not only adjusting to the loss of so many things we took for granted, like jumping in the car to go to Mom's favorite restaurant (it's no longer there), but we also had to figure out how to answer her questions in ways that would not cause further distress,” Hudgins said.
In Florida, the concern stems from statistics showing an estimated 500,000 residents have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The disease affects an estimated one in ten aged 65 and older and nearly one in two aged 85 and older.
Hall urged families coping with the devastation of Hurricane Wilma to seek assistance from local Alzheimer's organizations and to call AFA's national toll-free hotline, especially if they cannot reach a local agency at this time. AFA's toll-free number is 866-AFA-8484 (866-232-8484); it is staffed by certified social workers who can provide counseling on psychological and practical issues.
“During a tragedy like Hurricane Wilma and at any time, caregivers should reach out for help. Counseling and support can make a huge difference,” Hall said.
According to AFA, here are some ways that caregivers, whether they are still at home, displaced or caring for a person with dementia for the first time, can cope with daily living after a crisis:
In addition, AFA suggests that families should always be prepared in advance. At the top of the priority list, individuals with dementia should wear an identification bracelet and be outfitted with a tracking system, such as that offered by Project Lifesaver International.
An “emergency kit” should include bottled water; non-perishable foods; medications; incontinence products and other necessary supplies in waterproof containers; copies of the person's medical history, legal documents and insurance cards in a plastic bag and elsewhere in a safe place (for example, with a relative); a list of medications and contact numbers; and items of comfort, such as family photos.AFA is a New York-based national nonprofit organization that focuses on care for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, and their families. It unites hundreds of member organizations across North America, including dozens in Florida, which provide hands-on support services. At a national level, AFA's services include a toll-free hotline, educational materials, a free magazine for caregivers, and training for healthcare professionals. For more information, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org .
Contact: Carol Steinberg
Alzheimer's Foundation of America 866.232.8484