It's common to find people out in public who are asking for help perhaps for directions, or for change. It's almost a daily occurrence that a stranger will approach you or someone next to you on the street. While it is easy and often the case to ignore these people, especially if you have a busy schedule, you never know what their background could be.
If you see a member of the public, most likely elderly, looking lost, distressed, or confused, there is a chance that they are suffering from dementia or memory problems. If this is the case, there is a more urgent need for you to assist them in the best way possible. This blog will run through the methods of helping a lost or confused stranger that you suspect may have dementia or similar problems.
1. Assess the situation
There are a number of reasons why a person living with dementia may be walking around:
- Walking can relieve pain or discomfort
- It's habit used to relieve boredom, stress, or excess energy
- They're visiting for a familiar environment
Whatever the reason for walking around, patients are usually accompanied by a carer, friend, or relative to assure they're safe. If you notice someone who is acting strangely or in a worried manner, it's best to try and see if there is anyone close by that seems to be paying attention to them. Occasionally, if a child is looking after their parent who has dementia, they could also be looking after children of their own and their attention is drawn away.
Even though a patient could panic in the brief moment they are alone, the situation could be resolved quickly when the carer gets back on track. In the case that you have noticed a person in need of help, follow their movements for a few seconds to see if anyone accompanying them, if there isn't then you can move onto the next step.
2. Approach the Person Safely
Approaching the person safely is key to helping them in the best possible way as it is important not to scare or confuse the individual any further. Things to consider when approaching someone are:
- Don't stand too close so that you're in their personal space, but ensure that you can make eye contact and you can hear each other easily.
- Have a relaxed body language, being uptight and closed gives the wrong signals
- When you speak to ask them if they are ok, be calm and slow as well as giving ample time to explain and listen to what they have to say
- Stick to short, simple sentences and ask one question at a time. Finding out their name and if they know where they are going or who they are with are the key points
- Have patience, they may not realise you want to help them at first
- If the person is struggling to understand you, don't worry. Try and rephrase what you are asking and use hand signals such as pointing in a direction to assist the conversation
Staying with the individual and reassuring them that you're there to help will build trust and help you to find out more information about the situation.
If the person is vulnerable but they've told you they're with someone, the best approach is to wait with them, preferably next to a landmark or somewhere you can be obviously spotted.
If you the person is vulnerable but they've told you they're alone then it is best to then contact the police to report the incident as soon as possible. It would be advisable to wait in a cafe or public place where they can sit down and feel safe.
If you or a loved one is suffering from dementia and are looking for some in-home care services, or just general help, then contact Sova Healthcare today. Our team of experienced and qualified caregivers can offer compassionate home care, domiciliary care and assisted living. With offices in Birmingham, Leicester, Harrogate and Bradford, we can provide home care services across the West Midlands, East Midlands and Yorkshire Regions. Find out how Sova Healthcare can help you today!