When Leon Thong spotted an elderly man near his block looking lost and anxious, he decided to approach the senior and lend a hand. What followed was a series of events which ultimately led to the Safe Return of the senior to his loved ones.
It was a day like any other for Leon Thong, a 29-year-old working in the healthcare sector. Leon was heading to a shop at his neighbourhood when he spotted an elderly man looking troubled and seemingly lost. He observed the man asking passers-by for directions to his block but was not receiving much help from them. Leon then decided to approach him and pointed him to the block he had mentioned and went on his way. But the encounter did not end there.
Realising Something Was Amiss
Upon returning from the shop, Leon found the senior standing at the lift lobby of the block, still looking lost. Leon then asked him for his exact unit number and accompanied him to the flat. After knocking on the door, it turned out that the unit the man stated was not his own, but someone else’s.
It was then that Leon suspected that the elderly man is a person living with dementia. Following that, Leon brought him along to other units, attempting to find the right one. Sensing that the man was getting anxious, Leon reassured him that he would help him get home and tried to ease his rising panic.
Chancing Upon the CARA Card
After some time of futile searching around the blocks, Leon brought the senior to rest for a while at the chairs at the void deck. At that point, he noticed the man was wearing a lanyard that contained various cards and requested to sift through them. Leon then saw a membership card for CARA, a dementia membership programme launched by Dementia Singapore in November 2021. The card stated the senior’s name with the declaration ‘I Am Living With Dementia’. It also has a QR code and instructions that wil facilitate the Safe Return of the card holder to his loved ones.
Leon quickly proceeded to scan the QR code, which connected him with the senior’s caregiver. Over the phone call with the caregiver, Leon learnt that she had to take care of another family member at home and was unable to leave the house.
Determined to ensure that the senior returns home safely, Leon went an extra mile to book a Grab ride for the senior and requested that the caregiver sends him a text when the man arrives home safely. Thereafter, he also awaited the Grab notification stating when the senior had reached his destination.
Hope For the Community
In a conversation with the CARA team about his entire experience, Leon shared that it was his first encounter with someone in such a situation and that it was truly gratifying to have managed to help reunite the lost elderly man with dementia with his family.
“I am just thankful that the uncle returned home safely even though the whole process took close to an hour – my focus was to ensure that he was comfortable and safe,” Leon said.
He credited the CARA card for making it easy for members of the public like him to facilitate the senior’s safe return home. Otherwise, Leon would have had to call the police if he could not find any other means of helping him.
Leon hopes that people can keep a lookout for persons with dementia by observing their body language when they appear lost. He urges the public not to look the other way or immediately call the authorities, but instead do their best to keep the persons with dementia calm and guide them to their desired destination.
“I urge the community to be kind and lend a helping hand. Spend some time to talk to them and find out how you can help – there is no need to trouble the authorities if all of us can do our part,” he emphasised.
The CARA Membership programme is available to Singapore residents who are either living with dementia or is a caregiver of a person living with dementia. Not only will CARA members have the assurance to move about independently (with the unique identifier in the safe return function), but they will also enjoy benefits such as discounts and priority privileges from carefully selected partners. Members of the public like Leon can also be a CARA member! They can get access to educational resources on all topics related to Dementia and be notified of lost persons with dementia via the CARA app. For more information, visit cara.sg.