Dementia Awareness: How We Can Help?

Nov 01, 2021   |   Isabelle Goh

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Imagine walking into your kitchen to make your morning coffee and then reaching out to get that teaspoon of sugar from the top right-hand cabinet. Wait, was it in the top left cabinet instead? Riddled with uncertainty, you open both, hoping to see the sugar jar staring right at you, but it is nowhere in sight. It seems like you ran out of sugar at some point and forgot to replenish it.

It is alright, you tell yourself. You could always just buy some from the minimart down the street. So, you reach out to grab your coin pouch lying just right… hmm, it was supposed to be right here in the drawer, but you seemed to have misplaced it. You feel lost and disoriented.

This is a simplified example of how a person affected by dementia might start out their day. Dementia is a term used to describe an impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions, thus interfering with one’s daily life. (CDC, 2019)

Affecting 1 in 10 people above the age of 60 in Singapore (HealthHub), Dementia is not a mere disease that exists solely in the American Medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy. In fact, it is something that many older Singaporeans struggle with every day. Although there is no cure as of today, we are still able to offer a helping hand and enhance community awareness and support for seniors who may be struggling with their circumstances.

How to Spot Them

To spot a senior with dementia who needs help, you could first try looking out for any signs of them being lost or wandering around aimlessly around a certain location repeatedly.

Another more obvious sign, would be a card or a badge either on a lanyard around the senior’s neck or on their belongings saying “I have dementia” with possibly their care-giver’s contact information on the back of the card. This is much easier to spot once you are in closer proximity to the senior.

What Next?

This may seem like a big step but mustering the courage to approach them in a calm and collected manner will help you to establish some trust between you and the senior.

Always start off by asking the elderly if they are feeling okay and if you can help them with anything. This gives them the decision to accept your help without feeling too much like they are imposing on you. This will help the elderly to feel comfortable and more likely to open up and accept your help.

After establishing trust, you could also offer to help guide them to the location they would like to go as well, if they tell you that they need to get to a place to run some errands or have a meal etc

At this point, you could also ask to see if they are comfortable with you taking a look at their “I have dementia” card or badge. If there is contact information behind it, you could try contacting them to see what you could do to help the senior.

Alternatively, approaching someone who is more capable of helping the senior to ask them to help them out might be an option as well. This includes trained staff at certain SMRT stations across Singapore. Under the collaboration between SMRT and AIC under the Dementia-Friendly Singapore initiative, there are designated Go-to-points for dementia-related services at some train stations and bus interchanges.

Therefore, if you have stumbled upon a helpless dementia senior and feel unequipped to help them, the least you can do is to take these seniors to a dementia go-to point for them to get the guidance they need.

Concluding Thoughts

Although you may not be recognised for these kind actions that you do in the background, it might make someone’s day and the kindness may come back to you one day.

We should always remember that the people who suffer from dementia have never made the choice to have this condition. It is just something that they unfortunately have been affected by and it does not make them any less human.

If you would like to make a difference in the lives of our seniors and equip yourselves with some basic skills to befriend our seniors, our Heartware Support Our Pioneers programme is recruiting! Join us and be a general volunteer who actively bridges the inter-generational divide in Singapore one senior at a time.

Lastly, as we say at Heartware Network, “If it is not from the heart, it is not worth doing.”