I had my first experience with Alzheimer’s Disease on Saturday.

Ellie and I were out walking Audrey for a good while, and when we were nearly home we were stopped by a nice little old lady in all pink with a matching pink hat holding a Michelob Ultra plastic cup—quite a site. The city of Buffalo is hosting Garden Walk Buffalo, a huge city-wide celebration of private gardens and gardeners in the city. All weekend there were horticultural tourists swarming the area. Ellie and I live on the beautiful Olmsted Parkway System in Buffalo, so there are quite a lot of impressive gardens all around.

This little old lady asked where Bird Avenue was, and we quickly informed her that she was on Bird Avenue, thinking she was just out to look at gardens. Then she said that she lived on Bird. That’s when I realized that this wasn’t just a quick stop for directions. After learning very quickly that it was better to break things into “yes” or “no” questions, and realizing that most of the answers were a simple “no,” my mind started to race with the best course of action to take. Ellie left to run the dog up stairs, and I was alone trying to get information to help. While Ellie was gone, I noticed an identification bracelet with this lady’s name and a phone number. I tried calling but nothing . . . It was a very nondescript answering machine . . . with a different area code attached than the one we live in.

Fortunately, shortly after Ellie returned (and even more fortunately before we started walking the opposite direction of where she was supposed to go), a man came running down the street shouting “I got her! I got her!” Rita returned home, cracking jokes the whole way. A happy ending!

However, the experience still shook me a bit. Ellie has had experience with this, having worked in a nursing home and having dealt with her Gram who had dementia. But this was the first time I had interacted with someone in need who wasn’t able to give me anything to work with. It was kind of unnerving; not being able to help quickly without calling outside assistance really sucked.

It got me to thinking about many things, but what I wanted to comment on most of all here at the blog is this: Carrying proper identification—one that is updated—can go a long way to assisting people if you ever are in need of help, but aren’t able to help them. Just having a name from her bracelet was a huge comfort to me because at least it was something. I encourage everyone to run with some kind of identification, just in case. Along with this, make sure your pets’ tags are updated with current contact information, too! They aren’t much good at asking for directions home, and if you have moved a couple of times since getting your puppy, who knows where it will end up. So let’s all try to stay safe!