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How You Can Help a Person with Dementia who Might be Lost

Posted by Karen Thompson on

A common aspect of dementia is wandering. Wandering is when individuals with dementia might leave their home or their specific location without even realizing. Wandering can lead to individuals leaving their home and getting into a dangerous situation. For care partners, this can be a very scary situation.

If you are out in public and happen to find a person who you might assume has dementia, what should you do? Today, we share some tips on how to handle the situation and reconnect them with their loved ones or return to their home. 

If you find a person who you believe has dementia who approaches you asking how they could get home or if they are looking for someone and you do not know how to handle the situation, consider doing these things:

1. Introduce yourself and ask them what their name is. If the individual is not able to express their name to you, compliment them on their bracelet if it's visible and take a look to see if it will provide you with any additional information. Never assume anyone has dementia, so treat them as anyone else should be treated. Ask them how they are doing and gain a sense of trust. Additionally, not every person with dementia is an older adult, persons can be diagnosed as early as 40 years old.  

2. Individuals with dementia who live in retirement residences or long-term care typically wear a bracelet identifying who they are and which room they live in. Individuals who reside in their own home might also have a MedicAlert bracelet that provides identifying information on it along with an emergency responder number. This might help in identifying the individual and seeking help for them.

3. Ask them who they might be looking for and offer your phone so they can call them. If they do not know the number, try doing a Reverse411 based on their name and find their phone number. 

4. If they seem panicked and frustrated, offer them with some calm, reassuring words, and offer to help them get to where they need to be. Be friendly, non-judgmental, and avoid arguing. If a person does become aggressive, keep yourself safe and offer the help that you feel comfortable with providing.

5. If they cannot get a hold of their loved one, phone the police and inquire if there have been any calls about this person's whereabouts. Do not offer to drive the person to their home, it is best to try to contact their family members and authorities before leaving a location. 

6. The authorities can meet you and help the individual return home or back to their loved ones. Remain a friend in this moment and reassure them while waiting for the authorities. Spark a conversation about something off-topic to help take their mind off of the overwhelming situation. 

7. Wait for the police or relatives to meet the person at the location and make sure they are in good hands. Pat yourself on the back for helping this person return to their location or back with their loved ones safely. Your efforts will be very much appreciated. 

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