By Amy Stephenson
Walking around the community, it’s easy to feel at ease with familiar houses, faces and a sense of home. But for some, that ease can be lost to memory-related health concerns or episodes of delirium. Anyone can be impacted by delirium and there has been a rise in memory-related concerns like Alzheimer’s and other dementias. With 60 percent of people with dementia-related memory problems become lost at some point, it is worth taking proactive steps to support living safely. Living well means that both a person with a diagnosis and all those in their circle of care have peace of mind.
Different tools are appropriate depending on the level of risk. For someone living with low risk, having a card with their address in their pocket can help if they become disoriented. Or ensuring they carry a cell phone and use it to check in when they leave and return. These tips can be increasingly important as risk increases and the seasons change. We know half the people with dementia who go missing for 24 hours end up seriously injured or dead. This is due in part to inappropriate dress for the weather.
The Finding Your Way program has online resources to support family, friends and communities. There are free online training models to educate and inform. The Interactive Resource Guide takes users through a comprehensive list of considerations to make homes and communities more dementia-friendly.
The Medical Alert Safely Home program is another great initiative to keep people with dementia safe. It provides individuals with a Medical Alert bracelet that recognizes their memory concerns. The bracelet has an ID number and a hotline. Calling the hotline connects any bystander or first responder with the individual’s loved ones to ensure a safe return home.
Even those not directly impacted by dementia can take steps to support a dementia-friendly community. Here are some tips to help you:
How do you know if someone is wandering?
- They are inappropriately dressed for the weather.
- They are standing still looking around for a long period of time.
- They are pacing.
- They are repeating the same question or statement within a short period of time.
- • They have an identification card or bracelet.
If you do find someone, how can you promote effective communications?
- Speak slowly and calmly.
- Ask “yes” and “no” questions.
- Ask one question at a time, allowing plenty of time for response. If necessary, repeat the same question using the same wording.
- Use short, simple words.
How to react if you see someone wandering?
- Approach the person from the front.
- Identify yourself and explain why you’ve approached them.
- Maintain a calm environment.
- Avoid confrontation.
- Call the police or contact information on a Medical Alert Bracelet.
To learn more, check out the Alzheimer Society Toronto and the Finding Your Way program at findingyourwayontario.ca for more resources and tips.