If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911. Inform emergency personnel if someone with dementia or any cognitive impairment is involved in the situation.
First responders and law enforcement officials responsible for ensuring the safety of residents must understand the vulnerabilities and challenges that people with dementia face. Cognitive changes due to the disease impacts how a person with dementia perceives reality and may result in unsafe or high-risk behaviors. Empathy and patience are vital when interacting with an individual with dementia, especially when they are in distress. Specialized training sessions are offered for first responders and law enforcement to identify common behaviors and practical and safe intervention measures.
Wandering is standard behavior for people with dementia and though not inherently dangerous, can result in adults going missing from their homes. Notification systems such as the Silver Alert System are designed to locate the individual promptly after the person is reported missing. After recovering the lost individual, it is critical to check the vital signs of the found person as they may require additional medical assistance.
Anxiety and agitation in a person with dementia may be a result of a medical condition or reaction to a medication, confusion, or discomfort. Be mindful that the individual may have difficulty understanding the tense situation. Communication may also be a challenge as that person’s comprehension or ability to express themselves verbally may be impaired. Read about techniques that may help de-escalate a situation.
Hallucinations, and delusions, might occur due to a medication reaction, illness, or physiological change and affects the individual’s perception of reality. These factors might also contribute to paranoia, though paranoia may also be a way for the mind to cope with forgetfulness and loss. While the experiences they report may not be accurate, it is essential to consider that their statements or actions are in response to possible abuse or neglect.
Older adults, especially those with physical or cognitive impairment, are considered vulnerable and may be subjected to abuse in many forms: verbal, emotional, financial, sexual, physical, and neglect. If you suspect elder abuse of any kind, contact the Elder Protective Services at (800) 922-2275. Some professionals, including police officers and EMTs, are considered mandated reporters and are required by law to submit a report if any form of abuse is suspected.
Dementia Friendly America Resources
Dementia & Behaviors