According to the Alzheimer's Association, around 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. Chances are, someone that you know has this condition. When it's a family member you can provide assistance because you know the person. But what happens when you notice a neighbor may be experiencing memory lapses?
Identifying dementia, not just forgetfulness
Let's say there is an older woman who lives down the street. You've met her several times and with each occasion she introduces herself and acts as if she's never met you before. She may ask where you live despite having talked to you in the past directly in front of your home. She might also share her address just because. When the interaction ends, what can you do? It's important to note that meeting someone once or twice does not always equate with remembering his or her name, no matter how old you are. First, establish if you think the person truly has memory loss. In the situation above, it is likely the senior woman has some form of dementia based on the fact she has no idea who you are even after meeting you several times. The next time you see her, consider saying that you have met in the past and asking if she remembers. This may further verify that she has dementia.
"Learn if the senior lives alone or may require outside assistance."
Consider the individual's safety
Learn if the senior lives with someone else or alone by asking in conversation or making note of the state of her or her home when out in the neighborhood. For example, you may notice the grass is never mowed when you walk your dog past the woman's house. This may be a sign that she lives by herself and is not physically capable of handling the yard work. If the yard is mowed once a week by a young person who you also see hanging out on the front porch, chances are that individual lives with the senior or comes over often to help out. Whether you think the senior resides solo or has housemates, safety is the most important aspect here. If it's wintertime and the steps haven't been shoveled, consider taking on this task yourself or asking a neighborhood kid to do the task. Many seniors don't have friends or family to assist them with these simple tasks and they'll really appreciate your help.
Ask for a welfare check
Have you ever heard about welfare checks on the news or radio? When the weather gets really hot, many stations broadcast announcements to stay indoors, keep hydrated and make sure elderly or disabled individuals are OK by checking on them. Local police departments can perform welfare checks on seniors if they see fit. If you notice no one has been in or out of the home in days, this may be a chance to call the police and share your concerns. If you see the senior wandering the neighborhood in a confused state, this is another opportunity to have the police enter the senior's home to make sure he or she is in OK living conditions. If the police need to they can contact the senior's family to let them know about the wandering and draw attention to safety issues.