Portsmouth idea worth implementing

Portsmouth officials, working with Wentworth Senior Living, a senior living community in that city, has, in the words of a press release posted on Seacoast Online, “initiated a movement to become the first dementia friendly city in New Hampshire.” Also involved are Portsmouth Senior Services and the city’s Alzheimer’s Association.

The idea, they say, is to involve police, fire, emergency medical service providers, grocers, bankers, teachers and religious affiliates and teach them about the disease and how to recognize its symptoms. Community members also will discover how to effectively communicate with and assist those they believe may have the disease, those involved say.

We say this is a terrific idea that we hope spreads throughout the state – indeed, throughout the country – because so many people are suffering from symptoms, from mild to severe, of the dreaded Alzheimer’s Disease. But we don’t always recognize that, we don’t always know when someone really could use our help.

We are not necessarily talking about life-saving help, although that could be involved, but help on a more everyday level. In a Union Leader story following the Portsmouth initiative, it was suggested that a grocery clerk might recognize a customer who, time after time, cannot find a particular item or a particular aisle. Knowing that the customer is confused, that clerk could become directly involved and help the person find his or her way.

We can look at this, if you will, as a way to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, which, despite the point of view of Cain, we can and should be, at least to the extent of helping without hurting.

And if we know the signs of Alzheimer’s confusion, if we were to recognize that something more than just an inability to find something is occurring, we could step up involvement by calling, say, our local emergency services who, under Portsmouth’s plan, would also be trained to help in these situations.

But the only way for such an initiative to be successful is for the people who would be trained to buy into it wholeheartedly. We know these people will be busy at their jobs, they have their own issues, their own worries, but this is a time when we can put ourselves into the positions of our friends and neighbors: If we were suffering from this awful disease, wouldn’t we want them to help us?

The new year is a good time to think about it – and perhaps act upon it.