Dementia-friendly initiative sought for Tri-Cities

What to do if someone with dementia goes missing

"Can I help?"

Those three words could stop a crisis before it happens if they help a person with dementia be reunited with their family.

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And it's the hope of the Alzheimer Society of BC that more communities will become "dementia-friendly" through civic engagement and involvement.

"I think we all want to be good neighbours. This is the away we can do that — by building a more dementia-friendly community," said Rebecca Morris, manager of advocacy and education.

One of the most obvious ways people can help is to be alert to people who may appear to need assistance but don't ask for it.

Dementias, including Alzheimer's, cause changes to the brain that might result in confusion, disorientation and poor communication skills. Consequently, some 60% of dementia sufferers will experience wandering at some time — and some don't realize they are lost or can't communicate their need for help.

Morris said that shouldn't stop someone from offering assistance — possibly risking embarrassment if help is declined — to prevent a tragedy.

"It's incumbent on the whole society to treat wandering as a serious issue," Morris told The Tri-City News.

Here are some signs to watch for and things to do:

WALK FOR SHIN NOH

Don't forget the Walk for Shin Noh taking place in Coquitlam this Saturday. Here are the details.

The third annual Walk for Shin will take place Saturday, Sept. 17 at Eagle Ridge United Church, 2913 Glen Dr. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 10:15, with refreshments, announcements and a prayer along with the walk.

Here are some tips to prevent wandering to to track people down if they go missing:

MISSING

If someone goes missing:

• Quickly search the vicinity of where the person was last seen.

• Check for car keys, luggage or other items that may indicate where the person may have gone. People who wander sometimes take the car or transit.

• Contact the police. Inform them if the person is registered with the Medic Alert Safely Home program, a bracelet with identification.

 Notify the police of any locations that the person may wander to, such as a former workplace, previous address or favourite shop.

• Coquitlam RCMP recommend you have a recent, high-quality photo on hand and an up-to-date medical profile to provide to police. Let them know if your loved one is wearing jewelry that can help with identification.
• Alert friends and neighbours to the situation.

• Have someone stay at home in case the person returns.

LOST

Indications that someone is lost and what to do:

• You might notice they haven't moved from their spot or are pacing or they are at a bus stop watching several buses go by.

• Ask if they need assistance in a calm, clear voice.

• If they say they are fine but appear in distress, consider calling 911.

• Stay with that person until help arrives.

Find out more about being a dementia-friendly community, email dementiafriendlybc@alzheimerbc.org. To get more information about dementia, call the Dementia Help Line number at 1-800-936-6033.

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