Finally, Jim made the call. After waiting for Jane for 4 hours Jim called 9-1-1. Jane had received a diagnosis of dementia but it did not pull her away from little joys of her life. She enjoyed her evening walks to the neighborhood park, so she continued with them. The park was at the bottom of a hill and had walking trails leading to the hills. As usual, Jane went to the park late in the afternoon but had not returned for dinner. Jim, Jane’s husband, felt it was unsafe to search her by himself. He called 911 for help.
Emergency services are offered by various government agencies 24×7 to protect or rescue the residents of the city. Firemen, policemen, paramedics, social workers, and even volunteers are often the first responders in case of an emergency. These emergency services may include specialized teams such as canine units to locate people, aviation units to transport people to hospitals quickly or radio units to provide communication support in remote locations.
Persons with dementia are at a risk of emergency situations such as kitchen fires, being locked out in harsh weather, or a fall. Some persons with dementia live by themselves with some help from a paid part-time caregiver. In such situations, smoke alarms and security devices that can alert emergency services need to be used. Most emergency services have a dedicated telephone number that is easy to remember e.g., 911 in the US, 999 in the UK. Often dementia-friendly volunteer organizations conduct dementia awareness sessions for first responders. A well-trained dementia friendly responder knows that she may need to be patient or ask questions gently while the person provides details of the situation.
The caregivers of persons with dementia occasionally have to seek emergency services. For instance, a person with dementia had a fall while using a restroom or a person with dementia lost their way in a market or pedestrian accident. The caregivers need to ensure that they have appropriate telephone numbers for emergency services at all the times if a dedicated line is not a norm in that location.
A publically funded centralized government rescue system has its own benefits but also has a drawback. A government-provided rescue personnel may be 10-15 miles away and by the time they arrive the location, it is too late. In a dementia friendly community, apart from government-provided emergency services, citizens form their own dementia friends network. The purpose of this dementia friends network is to provide services as soon as possible. A well-trained person from a dementia friends network may be closer to the location and can reach the person living with dementia in a timely manner. This model of emergency services has been successfully tried in places such as Debenham, UK. The Debenham dementia project provides Debenham-on-Call emergency respite support where volunteers within four miles respond to requests of persons with dementia or their caregivers when in an emergency.
The network at Debenham is just a beginning. Several dementia-friendly communities are rallying together to form a network of caring dementia friendly volunteers that can assist in rescue and other emergency services. But it requires special technology platforms to build these networks. At AlzCare Labs, we are not only developing products to help persons with dementia but also building a digital platform to form a network of caregivers and volunteers.
To be a part of dementia friendly community, reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org