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How to help an old lady (dementia / Alzheimer's)

  1. Sep 2, 2016 #1
    OK, I don't know if there's something I should do.

    I've known this customer for about 3 years. She's an older lady who regularly bought cigarettes in our store and was completely normal and decent lady. During last year, I can see a rapid deterioration of her cognitive abilities. At first, she couldn't remember the name of her cigarettes, but it was not a problem, because I knew what she wanted. Later, she didn't understand the difference between cents and euros- she gave me 3 cents and absolutely couldn't understand that I need 3€.

    In the last months, she tried to pay for a whole pack of cigarettes by giving me 2 cigarettes back. She was totally confused and didn't understand the problem with that.

    Today she couldn't even talk. She spoke like this :"give me such thing ... So I can... You know... (miming writing using her hand) I asked if she wants crosswords and she was like yes yes. I gave her some to choose from and she was like "no... I need that... That... He will scold me for these" (miming what looks like reading now) I give her the most popular woman's magazine and she wants to take it. She gives me 2 cigarettes instead of money. I explain I need money.

    She then lifts her shirt up and shows me several cigarettes hidden in her bra saying "this is all I've got! So you won't give me this?" I say no and she leaves very confused not understanding what I want.
    I'm concerned that this lady walks in the town alone without supervision. I'm afraid she might get lost or something will happen to her. I don't know her name or where she lives.

    Is there something I can do for her? Should I call someone (who?) or should I let it be?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 2, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 2, 2016 #2
    A European country ...there are departments that deal with such things , send them the details as outlined in your post , and e mail might be easiest .
  4. Sep 2, 2016 #3


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    I once have been in a similar situation. "My customer" asked me late at 11 pm as I got home for the way to school and of course explained why.
    Luckily I knew some of her relatives who I could call and inform the next day. Maybe you can find out, whether she has relatives. Look in her purse or try to ask her. If she is a religious person, you can try to contact a priest. Unfortunately there are no "official" ways I knew of to handle such situations. However, asking the police whether they know a way out can't be wrong. Probably in vain, but hey, give it a try.
  5. Sep 2, 2016 #4


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    Firstly doing what you're doing by making sure shes ok in the shop is great. Beyond that do you know where she lives, if she has any relatives? Do you have any reason to suspect she doesn't have a carer?
  6. Sep 2, 2016 #5
    Thank you. I don't know if she lives with someone, I've never seen her with husband.
    Next time, I'll try to tactfully ask her who she lives with. She wears a cross necklace, so maybe she goes to church. I may ask the priest. Or I'll write to social department of town council. I know one person who works there.
  7. Sep 2, 2016 #6


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    That's a tough one. It sounds like this lady is really struggling.

    It's possible that she has a caregiver and that person or group allows her to go out and buy her cigarettes or whatever because they give her a small amount of her own money for that specific purpose. It can be good for people with dementia to continue on with their daily activities provided they are not in any position to do harm or be seriously harmed by anyone who might take advantage of them.

    That said, if you are really concerned for this person's well-being, you could contact either the police or emergency medical services. I know it may not really be a conventional or life-threatening emergency when she shows up, but this could be a matter of an individual who may not be able to take care of herself. Police or EMS will often have the ability to contact the appropriate social or medical services to get her the support she needs.
  8. Sep 3, 2016 #7
    Yes, that might be a good idea, too. She doesn't visit that often now. Next time she comes, I'll try to sensitively find out if she has someone who cares for her so that I don't make unnecessary panic.
    Based on her answer, I'll decide what to do next.
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