How A Neighbourhood Watch can be a friend for people with dementia

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Dementia is most often caused by Alzheimers Disease, but it can also be a sign of problems with the blood supply to the brain.  In the UK there are about 850,000 people with dementia - mainly very old people.  After the age of ninety you’ve got a really high chance of starting to get the symptoms.

Most old people with dementia still live at home. If they have someone living with them it reduces the chance of them having to go in a care home, but even the ones who live alone can do well and be happy for a long time. 

Good neighbours are a really important part of this.  If you know a little bit about dementia then it helps you to think of ways that you can support the person they live with, or family and friends who live away from them.

Lots of people get old without ever getting dementia. So if the neighbour you know starts to behave differently, that’s not “normal” and you may be able to persuade them to see their GP about it, or mention it to the family when they are visiting so that they could make arrangements.

Friends and Neighbours in group photographYou might see your neighbour getting lost in familiar places.  “I met my neighbour Arthur and after we chatted he headed off up the road away from his house saying “I’m away to make my dinner...”  I followed him for a bit and when he started to falter, caught up with him and chatted casually and got him to come back. 

I tried not to embarrass him and to treat it gently but I made sure to mention it to his daughter the next time I saw her car outside his house. 

She was worried of course but really pleased that I had spotted him and gave me her number to ring her if I was ever concerned about him.  She got him to the doctor and he’s on pills now and seems much brighter.”

Lots of people get old without ever getting dementia. So if the neighbour you know starts to behave differently, that’s not “normal” and you may be able to persuade them to see their GP about it, or mention it to the family when they are visiting so that they could make arrangements.

There is no cure for dementia but lots of things that can reduce the symptoms.  Exercise, particularly in daylight, is really helpful, so think about inviting your neighbour for a walk to the shops or walk your dogs together. 

Social contact seems to reduce the symptoms, so take every chance you can to share a cup of tea, or a chat, both with the person who has dementia and the person caring for them.  People with dementia are even more vulnerable to scams and unscrupulous people than anyone else, and we advise families to put powers of attorney in place for protection.  

There are more hints in a book called “Ten Helpful Hints for Carers” available from Amazon.

If you see something that worries you, you can ring your local Alzheimer's Society or in Scotland, the Alzheimer Scotland 24 hour helpline for advice on 0808 808 3000.  It is always worrying if the person is inclined to stray out after dark, or get lost. 

Your neighbour might fail to recognise you, so always find a way of introducing yourself every time you meet, just in case they wonder.  You can find out more about dementia here.