Last summer, I was sitting with friends on a balcony facing the entrance to a Toronto subway station. We watched as an older woman walked back and forth across the street next to the subway station. She seemed confused, walking against the light, and in pain.
Alarmed, we went down to the street to see if we could help. After speaking with her for a minute or so, I was sure she had some kind of dementia. Although she knew her name, she had no idea where she was going or how long she had been out.
We sat there with her, trying to get help from the transit staff or the police, but because she appeared to be safe and people were with her, they could not help right away.
Fortunately this time, the kindness of strangers saved the day. A young couple walking by said they recognized her as someone living in their apartment building, five kilometres away. We called the doorman of the apartment building and heard that she had just moved into a seniors’ residence. She had forgotten she lived there and had been missing for six hours. The residence came to pick her up soon after.
In March 2013, the Alzheimer Society of Ontario launched Finding Your Way, an innovative public safety initiative to help keep people with dementia from going missing and find them more quickly if they do.
But what gives the program even more power is that by spreading the word, we can all play a role in keeping people with dementia safe. I learned that for myself last summer.
I have a challenge for you: if you see someone who appears to be lost or confused, don’t ignore the person and continue on. Stop to see if he is ok. You could be helping someone with dementia find her way.
Chief Financial Officer, Alzheimer Society of Ontario