When a person is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal changes are taking place in the parts of their brain that control thinking, memory, and language. A person suffering from Alzheimer’s will be elderly, and will probably exhibit signs of memory loss, disorientation, dementia, language difficulty, and problems with abstract thought such as counting or math. Alzheimer’s victims often have difficulty communicating if they get lost or become separated from a caregiver or loved one.
First aid responders should utilize proper communication skills in order to find out who the person is and help reconnect them with their caregiver. If you believe that an elderly person is lost and might be suffering from Alzheimer’s:
- Approach and speak to them slowly. Make good eye contact when talking, and only ask one question at a time beginning with their first name. Give them ample time to answer your questions, and try asking again if they do not respond.
- The Alzheimer’s Association offers a program and emergency response service for individuals who have wandered off and might be having a medical emergency. Look for a Medical Alert bracelet or necklace, ask to see it, and call the number on the I.D.
- If you cannot visually locate an identification bracelet or necklace, ask the person about any family or friends they might have. If they have wandered off, they likely live nearby. Try to tailor your questions toward the person’s responses until you gather enough information to be of help. Be patient so they do not become frustrated or agitated.
People affected by Alzheimer’s can exhibit rapid mood swings and unusual fits of anger as a result of their confusion. If the person’s behavior suddenly becomes irritated or irrational, stop asking questions, step away, and call 911 for assistance right away. Give the operator details about your conversation and suspicions about their condition, and try to stay close by until help arrives.
- Helpguide.org: http://www.helpguide.org/elder/alzheimers_disease_dementias_caring_caregivers.htm
- Alzheimer’s.org: http://www.alz.org/safetycenter/we_can_help_safety_medicalert_safereturn.asp
- WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/treating-agitation