Following two recent cases involving confused elderly people, police are urging the public to be on the lookout for the onset of dementia in family members.
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported that a 93-year-old Yunlin County farmer surnamed Tu (涂) on Monday went to the local police station in Gukeng Township (古坑) and informed Kao Hai-fu (高海富), the officer on duty, that an old woman was standing in front of his home and she seemed to be lost.
Kao accompanied the man back home and found the woman, who could not remember her name, where she lived, telephone number or other details. All she could remember was that her family name was Tu (涂).
The farmer reacted angrily.
“You are talking nonsense. Tu is my family name. You cannot just use my name like that,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Kao then took the couple to nearby residents to see if anyone could identify the woman.
A neighbor told the officer that the couple were husband and wife. Kao thought the neighbor was joking, but after further questioning he said he realized the neighbor was right and the couple were probably both suffering from dementia.
He took them home and after the couple relaxed for a while, they were able to recognize one another, the newspaper said.
Kao later got in touch with their son, who lives nearby, and told him to pay closer attention to his parents.
In another case in Chiayi this week, two police officers found a 94-year-old man confused and sitting on a traffic island in a busy intersection, the newspaper reported.
Sinnan Precinct officers Tseng Wei-kuo (曾維國) and Lin Geng-liang (林耿良) were on patrol when they came upon the nonagenarian surnamed Wang (王) on Wufong S Road, with cars and motorcycles whizzing past.
The man was unable to tell the officers where he came from, so they took him back to their station, the paper said.
When they reached the station, they found an elderly woman had called to report that her husband had gone out to buy lunch about noontime and had not returned, the paper said.
Her description of her husband matched the man Tseng and Lin had found, so they returned him to his home and a very relieved wife, it said.
The newspaper report quoted Fang Chen-wen (方楨文), a neurologist at the Yunlin branch of National Taiwan University Hospital, as saying that the symptoms of people with dementia tend to worsen when weather conditions fluctuate or when there are changes in their living environment.
“However, when the weather stabilizes, the dementia symptoms tend to stabilize. It was likely the cold air mass that brought lower temperatures in the past few days that led to an increase in elderly people manifesting symptoms of dementia,” Fang said.
The physician called on family members to pay close attention to their elderly relatives and live with them if possible.
“It is a good idea to have them wear identification tags on a bracelet or necklace that provides their name, address and telephone numbers. This will help identify them if they get lost,” he said.