James had been finding it more difficult to motivate himself to go to the club but his regular routine had carried him through. Now that the club has closed, he still goes out and walks around seemingly without aim. He lives alone, with a pleasant but limited acquaintance with his neighbours, some of whom have had to direct him home when he has seemed lost in the local area.
Over the past year it has been noticeable that he has become more friendly, talking to his neighbours, shopkeepers and even strangers, who he is inviting back to his house. These strangers have been noticed coming in and out of his house at various times of the day and night with alcohol, and neighbours are concerned for his safety.
Some of James’ neighbours have talked to him and he admits that he does not really want these people visiting him – but he is glad of the company and does not want to offend them by refusing entry to his house.
James is showing some signs that may indicate dementia. Signs of aimlessness, getting lost and of making poor judgements about people are not uncommon in people living alone with dementia. It can be dangerous, too: people living with dementia are vulnerable, and there are people who will take advantage of vulnerability, sometimes to the point of appalling bullying and cruelty. On the other hand many people living by themselves are lonely, and many people prefer companionship with some strings attached to no companionship at all.
Applications for DemTalk
James’ neighbours are in a difficult position: to what extent can they help James and to what extent can they take responsibility for helping him?
Probably the best strategy for James himself is to talk through his options, with a neighbour or a relative if they are available and feel able to tackle the issues, with a care professional or a police office if not. Visiting a GP to discuss the possibility of dementia would almost certainly be helpful.
Anyone involved with James who does want to help will have to pick their way through the possibilities available: that he changes his behaviour, that he invites help or that he needs referral for help because he is at serious risk.
DemTalk provides help only to the extent that understanding of dementia and empathy with James’ feelings, a suitable environment and a suitable time of day may help with tactful but honest discussion. James’ wishes should be paramount, providing he understands the risks involved. If he can be persuaded to minimise these risks so much the better.