THE daughter of a 77-year-old woman with dementia has issued a warning to other families, saying dramatic changes to her daily routine caused by lockdown may have led to her going missing three times in the past fortnight.

Claire Dick says her mother Margaret Patersonwas found confused and wandering the streets – and it was the first time this had happened since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago.

She said it was fortunate that on each occasion she had been found safe and well but spoke of her fears that her mother might leave her home in Giffnock at night.

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Elderly charities say they have experienced a sharp rise in the number of calls from older people and their carers, including those affected by dementia, for whom “life has become more difficult than ever”.

Glasgow's Golden Generation (GGG), which runs a network of day centres and other support services, said many elderly people are confused by government guidelines, while those still living at home are facing loneliness and isolation due to day centres having shut down and less contact with families.

On top of this, there is the disruption to daily routines, which can cause dementia symptoms to worsen, according to experts.

Alzheimer Scotland said the pandemic and current lockdown had caused “increased levels of stress, distress and anxiety” for the dementia community. 

The charity has increased the number of volunteers staffing its 24-hour helpline.

Claire, who lives in Rutherglen, runs the David Cargill Day Centre of behalf of GGG, which her mother attends.

She said: “In the last couple of weeks my mother has been found three times, wandering around.

“Every day my mum was used to Monday to Friday, getting two buses from her home in Giffnock to the David Cargill Centre. Then she would take a bus home and that has been her routine.

“You have to try to keep people with dementia in their routine for as long as possible.

“A person who lives in Giffnock got in touch, she got a bit of a fright and contacted my brother. She was on Fenwick Road, we don’t know how long she had been wandering. "She can’t tell us.

“The second time she had gone into the chemist to pick up her prescription. It was a Tuesday and we normally pick up her prescription on a Friday morning. 

“The chemist phoned the doctor’s surgery and sent her up there in a taxi and then the doctor got in touch with me.

“They said it’s probably a decline because she is not in her normal routine.

“The third time, by a stroke of luck, my niece was driving past and she saw her. This was even with me putting notices on her front door saying ‘do not leave’.

“My mum can live day to day like a lot of people with this condition. She was managing fine.

“I went round one day and it was 11.45am and her blinds were closed. I was banging on her door and her windows and I had to go in.

“I did get a bit of a fright because she was out for the count and I actually thought she had passed away.

“But she came to and I called the doctor.”

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Claire said the family have now increased checks on Margaret after the recent incidents.

Last week, TV’s Richard Madeley urged the public to look out for older people, particularly those who have dementia, after revealing the toll his own mother’s battle with the disease had taken on the family.

Lynsey Neilson, dementia development officer at GGG, pictured below, says it’s important for people with dementia to create new routines to help return some sense of normality.

She said: “Having a routine can be really important to someone living with dementia – for many of our members, part of that routine is coming to our day centres, but of course this is not possible at the moment.

“For people with dementia living in the community, it can be difficult to keep up with the endless barrage of information and ever-changing guidelines. 

“We have seen an increase in calls from older adults querying what the guidelines mean for them and many of our members have told us that they are confused by what they can and cannot do. 

“We are encouraging families, carers and people with dementia to develop new routines that will help them to manage their day. 

“This helps to provide a sense of normality during these challenging times.

“A real problem for many older adults, and especially those living with dementia, is loneliness and isolation. 

“Under current guidelines families cannot visit to provide company and community groups are not currently meeting which is a huge loss to older adults. 

“GGG is supporting older adults by calling our members to ensure they have the support they need and also to provide a friendly voice at the end of the phone. 

“As our day centre staff are involved in making these calls, it means our members are hearing from someone they know and trust which makes a huge difference.”

The charity is also delivering packs of essential food items and toiletries and an activities newsletter with jokes, crosswords and other activities – and it is prioritising those with dementia. To support the campaign click here 

The Glasgow Times’ Think Dementia campaign aims to improve the support, care and financial aid offered to people with dementia.

For advice call Alzheimer Scotland’s helpline on 0808 808 3000.