Page 76 - Marlborough Living May June 2019
P. 76

 how can you help a person with
dementia who is looking lost?
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are on in the increase - 850,000 people live with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. Professor June Andrews RMN, RGN, FRCN, OBE has produced a publication which helps
the lay person understand the impact of this illness - here she gives her tips on identifying and helping those in need...
  My friend tells me that sometimes she sees an older person, in a shop or on a bus, and she just knows, from experience of her mother with dementia, that they are not quite “in the moment”. They might even look a bit distressed. It is a real dilemma, wondering what to do if someone might be confused. You want to help, but you don’t want to embarrass them. You’d like to do the right thing, but you don’t want to interfere if it’s not wanted.
The most important thing is to smile and speak to the person. If they are not confused, they’ll not mind a bit of social interaction. Even
if they are confused, just talking to you can make a difference. You can start with, “Going somewhere nice today?” Or a similar general remark about the weather, or the time of day. You will soon work out if they know where they are going, or which stop to get off at.
The question is what you should do if you are still worried. Every year, more and more staff working in transport and in public services like shops are having training in how to support people with dementia. Often, if you are able to tell the bus driver or sales assistant that you are concerned about someone, the transport company or shop will have a protocol for how they are advised to handle it. Maybe the person is a regular passenger, and the driver knows at what point
to give them a reminder that their stop has been reached. The shop assistant will be able to make a cuppa while some enquiries are made.
Caring for people with
dementia is a complex
issue, and it is not possible
in a short article to give advice on all the possible responses you might make. But it is possible that someone is already searching for them, and the police may be aware that they have become lost. Even if the person tells you that they are wanting to go home, it is possible that they are heading in the wrong direction. Arguing with them is not a good idea. The most important thing is to help them to stay calm. You can call the police to let them know you are concerned.
If your neighbour is affected by dementia, offer to be on the family’s list of friends who will go out to look for them if they go missing. They may ask you to call them if you notice them going about alone. Often, after the first time, the person is given ID jewellery to help. The advice is that fifteen minutes after going missing, the police
are informed, because that makes it more likely they’ll be found. It is handled differently from other missing persons when there’s a diagnosis of dementia.
You can find more information about dementia on the website of the Dementia Services Development Trust www.dementiatrust.org.uk
Professor June Andrews author of Dementia The One Stop Guide.
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