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Program helps identify lost loved ones

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Having a loved one with dementia wander off and get lost happens more often than you might expect.

Three out of five people with dementia get lost at some point, and half of those who go missing for 24 hours end up seriously injured or dead.

Thankfully, there's a program called “Finding Your Way” which helps people living with dementia, along with their families, caregivers, and community members, recognize the risk of going missing—as well as provides tips on what to do if they do.

In conjunction with “Alzheimer's Awareness Month" (January), Mary O'Connor, local Client Services co-ordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River Districts, will be busy promoting "Finding Your Way.”

A “Finding Your Way” identification kit clinic will be held Friday, Jan. 19 from 1-3 p.m. at the Fort Frances Senior Centre (Sister Kennedy Centre).

A second clinic will be held Wednesday, Jan. 24 from 1-3 p.m. at the seniors' centre in Rainy River.

The clinic is to show people how to help keep their loves ones with dementia safe by completing an identification kit for them, O'Connor explained.

“If you come home and all of a sudden they're not there, the very first thing you do is call the police,” she noted.

“And when you call the police, you'll have this [the kit].”

O'Connor stressed this is important because “there will be a lot of things, because you'll be in such a panic, that you won't remember.”

Providing the kit to police conveniently will provide them with what they need to know.

The kit asks you to fill out an identification form, including your loved one's full name, nickname, age, languages spoke, home address, physical description (i.e., height, weight, hair colour, eye colour, etc.), and identifying features (i.e., eye glasses, hearing aid, tattoos, etc.)

It also asks for their medical information such as allergies, medications, family doctor's name, etc., potential places to look for them (previous homes, workplaces, hangouts, etc.), and vehicle information (if they drive).

It even leaves room for a recent photo of the individual.

“It's like insurance, only free," O'Connor reasoned. ”Hopefully, you never have to use it but it's there and it's free.

“Every single person should have it.”

The kit also includes tips on what to look for in a lost individual, such as not being dressed for the weather, standing still and looking around for a long time, pacing, looking confused or disoriented, and repeating the same question within a short period of time.

As well, it gives advice on what to say to such an individual if you meet them—and what to do after you've determined they're confused and lost.

O'Connor made a presentation on “Finding Your Way” last month at the Golden Age Manor in Emo and said it was well-received, adding people love that it's free.

If you can't make it to one of the two upcoming clinics, but would like a “Finding Your Way” kit, contact O'Connor at 276-9105.

O'Connor also is available throughout the year to make presentations on the variety of topics.

These range from the top 10 warning signs of dementia to how to visit with someone who has dementia to how to care for someone with dementia who is dying, to name a few.

O'Connor also interacts personally with families and caregivers of those with dementia, and currently has abut 90 clients in Rainy River District.

To arrange for a presentation or a visit, call her at 276-9105.

Other events

Looking ahead, the annual Linda Johnston Memorial roast beef dinner is slated for Saturday, Jan. 20 at 5 p.m. at the Rainy River Legion.

The Red Hatters are organizing the popular dinner again this year, which will feature roast beef prepared by the Red Hat Society and Walter Wagner.

The cost is $20 per ticket, which are available at the Rainy River Legion and from Deb Wagner.

There also will be a penny table organized by Marlene McNally and chair raffles.

Penny table and chair tickets will be available at the dinner only.

Tom and Pam Irvine will deliver dinners for those unable to attend but would like to support the Alzheimer Society.

For further info or to purchase tickets, contact Wagner at 852-3687.

As well, the local Alzheimer Society's annual charitable dinner, “Forget Me Not,” will be held Saturday, Feb. 3 at La Place Rendez-Vous here.

The evening will include fine dining, live entertainment by local duo “Entyrely Mac,” and a prize auction.

The guest speaker will be Dr. Barry Campbell, medical director of geriatric psychiatry at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

This event will begin with cocktails at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6.

Tickets cost $50 each or $400 for a table of eight, which can be purchased at Northwoods Gallery & Gifts and the Rendez-Vous, or by calling toll-free 1-800-682-0245.

A $25 charitable tax receipt will be issued.

Proceeds will go to the Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River Districts to deliver programs and services at no cost to those affected by Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

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