September 2016 will mark the fifth global World Alzheimer’s Month™, an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge stigma related to dementia. There are currently estimated to be over 46 million people worldwide living with dementia. The number of people affected is set to rise to over 131 million by 2050. There is one new diagnosis of dementia worldwide every three seconds.
Nearly 200,000 Ontarians have dementia – 1 of every 68 people – 1 in 11 over age 65 – 864 individuals in the Belleville area. Anyone with dementia can go missing with no prior warning signs or indications of wandering. In fact, 60 percent of people with dementia-related memory problems become lost at some point. Familiar surroundings may suddenly become strange to them and they get disoriented and are unable to find their way home. Becoming lost is not just distressing to everyone, it can be dangerous. 50 percent of the people with dementia who go missing for 24 hours end up seriously injured or dead.
These startling statistics are why it is so important that a community be informed and able to offer assistance when we come across someone who seems lost or confused. Here are some helpful tips from Alzheimer’s Society Ontario.
Know the signs of a lost person. The person may be:
- Inappropriately dressed for the weather
- Standing still looking around for a long period of time
- Looking confused or disoriented
- Repeating the same question or statement within a short period of time
Know what to say to the individual:
- Speak slowly and calmly.
- Loudness can convey anger; avoid the assumption that the person is hearing impaired.
- Use short, simple words.
- Ask “yes” and “no” questions.
- Ask one question at a time, allowing plenty of time for response. If necessary, repeat the same question using exactly the same wording. Changing the format of a question becomes a new question and causes further confusion.
- People with dementia may only understand a part of the question at a time.
Know what to do when attempting to assist the person:
- Approach the person from the front.
- Identify yourself and explain why you have approached them.
- Maintain a calm environment.
- Move slowly; maintain eye contact.
- Avoid confrontation.
- Avoid correcting the person or imposing “reality checks”.
- Call police (911) for help returning the person home safely.
- Wait with the person and reassure them until the police arrive.
When you find someone with dementia who is lost:
- Look for a body-worn blue MedicAlert® Safely Home® bracelet.
- Read the vital information on the back of the bracelet
- Call the 24/7 MedicAlert® Emergency Hotline, so that a MedicAlert® operator can quickly contact caregivers or family and provide the necessary information to bring the person safely home.
- If there is no evidence of a bracelet, you can politely inquire about wallet identification or a card carried in their pocket. If the person hesitates or refuses to cooperate with your request, leave it for the police to address when they arrive.
For more information you can contact our local Alzheimer’s Society Hastings Prince Edward at the north end of the Bay View Mall in Belleville or by telephone at 613-962-0892 or 1-800-361-8036. Stay tuned next week for some information on a provincial initiative called “Finding Your Way”®.