In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s destructive path through Florida in 2017, the collective voices of first responders and Florida Health Department officials echoed a sentiment of disbelief: “I am astounded by the number of individuals with dementia living alone.” The devastation left behind by the storm had uncovered a startling reality – that many elderly and vulnerable adults were facing the challenges of aging and cognitive decline without any support or assistance. It was a sobering reminder of the fragility of human life, and the importance of community and resources to help those who may not have the means to care for themselves.
The reality is there’s no way for us to quantify this issue accurately. Many of these individuals live without recognition, and some without a diagnosis. To make matters worse, some of their loved ones are oblivious to their medical condition, while others deliberately choose to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist in order to avoid getting involved.

The concept of being a Good Samaritan has become a rarity in today’s world. Many individuals in today’s society seem to lack compassion or a sense of responsibility toward their elderly neighbors.

Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy for people to pay attention. For those living with dementia without companionship, the catalyst is usually something serious like hospitalization. Dehydration, accidental overdose, or a fall are common reasons why these individuals end up in the emergency room. It’s not until then that their families realize they need more supervision to continue living at home independently. This realization often leads to legal decisions about their future.
The effects of some dementia-related diseases can accelerate at a surprising pace, leaving those affected to face the burden of managing on their own and feeling as though time is slipping away much quicker than expected.

We must prioritize our elderly population and pay close attention to their needs, whether they live in our communities, attend our places of worship, or even go grocery shopping. Additionally, it is important to note that conditions related to dementia can start as early as one’s forties and sixties.

Be on the lookout for any unusual signs, such as piles of unopened mail, a decline in social activities, or unexpected weight changes. We must leave behind the idea of “senior moments” and instead focus on asking questions and addressing concerns in the present. The stigmas surrounding dementia can be dangerous. It’s important to be proactive and ask probing questions rather than ignoring the situation until it becomes critical. Don’t be afraid to inquire about their recent doctor visits, family communication, or offer to go grocery shopping together. These small actions can make a big difference.

Showing kindness and lending a hand to those in need is commendable. Taking action to assist someone in a difficult situation is something to take pride in.

Gary Joseph LeBlanc, CDCS
Education Director
Dementia Spotlight Foundation