A few years ago, over coffee, a policeman friend of mine was recounting the day he was called to a local fast food restaurant to help a confused senior who had ordered a meal but was now unable to pay – did not have his wallet. In fact he had forgotten his wallet and though he drove to the restaurant, he was not sure where he was. The server misunderstood the signs of dementia and insisted he pay or leave the food. The manager was called and situation spiraled of our control to the point where the police were called. The police quickly realized that John…we will call him that…..was miles away from his home and was not looking well. The paramedics were called and he was whisked away to the local hospital. His family was located and they shared that he was recently diagnosed with dementia and had taken the car without them knowing. John was admitted to the hospital for observation and then placed in a memory care temporarily until the family could find long-term accommodations for him. My friend remarked on how helpless he felt in the situation – one that was a far cry away from his regular duties.
The takeaway here: the signs where there…..John was confused and possibly had dementia. None of those he encountered recognized the signs. Had they, the situation may have been handled differently — did not have to escalate to the point where John was carted off the hospital. Had the server, manager, police been trained to recognize the signs, there might have been a smoother conclusion. In any case, John got the care he needed. Were the paramedics and ER personnel equally ill-prepared? Who knows?
To be friendly – dementia friendly – is to be aware of the needs of people living with AD and other forms of dementia. We need community-based best practices, education, awareness, support and ways to reduce stigma. Give a senior a hand today!