ALZHEIMER’S: Act quickly for wandering patients

Journal Staff

Saturday is a trigger for Patricia Wright.

The entertainment options are the slimmest that day at the assisted living home where 83-year-old lives.

So Saturday is the day she tends to wander.

Wright, who has dementia, became lost during one of those strolls last summer, and precariously ventured through a bustling construction zone at the Northgate shopping plaza.

When she learned her mom was missing Diane Robb called 911 immediately.

“It’s the very first thing – even if they’ve only been gone for 30 minutes – to do because time is of the essence,” Robb said, who got her mom back after a keen observer spotted Wright wandering near her home and alerted authorities.

“My mother was actually gone for seven hours and it was quite hot that day.”

Unfortunately, it’s not a rare occurrence.

Robb said about 3,000 people in Sarnia suffer from dementia, a gradual loss of mental function sever enough to interfere with a person’s daily life.

Some patients are prone to wandering, often without proper clothing for the elements.

The Alzheimer Society of Sarnia Lambton says a misconception about when to involve the authorities in a search could be complicating matters.

You are not required to wait 48 hours before reporting a missing adult to police, as some believe.

“If you have a family member or know someone who has gone missing, please get police involved right away,” said Christine Wright, the local education coordinator.

Sarnia Police agree.

“It is an emergency,” said media officer Const. Les Jones.

“These folks can wander unprepared for the environmental conditions,” which can lead to “dehydration, heat stroke and hypothermia,” he said.

Families are encouraged to register their loved ones with the Safely Home program.

The program provides a bracelet or necklace containing an address, which police say can greatly assist when someone gets lost.

Robb entered her mother in the program after she wandered off last summer.

“It’s so important to register,” she said.

 

DEMENTIA ART PROGRAM EXHIBITION

The Alzheimer Society of Sarnia-Lambton has partnered with the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery to deliver an art program for people with dementia and their care partners.

Creating and interacting with art can help people with dementia remember their past, express thoughts and opinions, and improve their morale and self-esteem, the society says.

Under the gentle encouragement of an art facilitator and volunteers, participants have challenged themselves to create reflections of their thoughts and feelings.

An exhibition of art works created in 2014 will be on display at the downtown gallery, with an opening ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 10, at 1 p.m.

ALZHEIMER FACTS:

* Women are doubly impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. Women represent 72% of Canadians living with the disease and account for 70% of family caregivers.

* Early diagnosis can make a big difference for people affected by dementia.  It opens the door to treatment and gives time to plan ahead.

* In Lambton County, an estimated 2,713 people over the age of 65 have a form of dementia.

* Today, 747,000 Canadians have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. That number is expected to nearly double to 1.4 million in less than 20 years.

* After age 65, the risk of dementia doubles every five years.

* Though age is the primary risk factor, dementia is not a normal part of aging. It refers to a group of brain disorders that are progressive, degenerative and eventually fatal.

* The Alzheimer Society provides, support, information groups, respite, education, information on reducing risk and resources. It can be reached at 420 East St. N in Sarnia, 519-332-4444 or www.alzheimer.ca/sarnialambton