Monday 12 November, 2018

Alzheimer's patient found dead should be a wake-up call

Get ID bracelets for family members with dementia immediately.

Making this urgent plea is the President of the Barbados Alzheimer’s Association, Pamelia Brereton.

She was speaking to Loop News following a number of recent missing reports filed where the persons had Alzheimer’s, and on one occasion, the elderly gentleman was discovered dead. To the family and friends of the late 79-year-old Gordon Alleyne, she extended her deepest sympathy. Alleyne, who had Alzheimer’s, was reported missing and a day later, October 12, his body was found in a ravine near his home by a search party which included police officers and family members.

Brereton added, “I’m very sorry for their loss.”

Addressing how other families could avoid a similar tragedy, she firstly called on families and citizens to be more aware of this disease.

“People need to understand that it’s not something they are doing deliberately. Persons with dementia have a tendency to walk away because they are going back in history. They are not living in the present. They are living in the past. So a lot of the times they would say, 'Look it is time for me to go home.' Home might be in St. Michael now but they were born and raised in St. John so that is home - they’re going back.

“They might also be going to work, back to the job that they used to do. They might also be going to school like a child. That was something an uncle of mine used to do; he was 87. They go back in history because their memory is long-term. They go back to the things that that their brain cells are clinging to in yesteryear.”

Therefore she urged, “When you know you have someone like that, you have to prepare yourself with the right equipment.”

For example, she advised, “A tracking device is one of the things you should be able to purchase, either to put on the person’s hand or leg, depending on the type you get."

“You also have to keep your doors locked. You also should have your gates locked and secured. Now that does not mean necessarily that they still won’t get out. We know that persons with dementia like to climb so the guard walls should be high and designed in a way that they can’t get over. Those are things that you need to do when you have a dementia patient who likes to walk away.

“But most of all, you should always have someone keeping an eye on them. They are not supposed to be left alone because they will sneak away.”

Brereton said it’s fascinating how they just decide to leave.

“I don’t know where they get the idea of, for instance, watching to see where you put keys and go after the keys then they open the door and they’re gone. You think they’re there and you come back and they are gone.”

In the event that you cannot afford or access a tracking device, she said that people can get creative and make an ID bracelet or chain for their loved one.

Brereton cautioned that some people think that once their loved ones have their ID card on them it is enough, but she stressed, “You don’t want people having to go into their purses or pockets to get the ID information.”

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