While Misty Hall was on her rural mail route Saturday just west of North Platte, an elderly lady in a pickup approached her.

Hall was on U.S. Highway 30, just west of the Lincoln County fairgrounds.

“She said I looked friendly and maybe I could tell her where she was going. I asked where she was headed. Her answer and body language told me something was wrong,” Hall said.

Hall talked to comfort her a bit and asked questions — where she was from and her name — realizing that she couldn’t leave her there.

Hall called 911 and the woman went on. When she gave the 911 dispatcher the woman’s license plate number, she got the goosebumps. She realized that the woman was a long way from home. It was a Wyoming plate. Hall tagged along behind the pickup.

She spoke to a Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy, who asked, “Do you see her now?”

“By that time she had turned around on the highway and was now heading west,” Hall said. “I told him yes. He said try to keep her in your sight.

The woman made another U-turn and then headed back to North Platte. The deputy met up with them and turned on his lights. She pulled over.

“She was scared and so lost,” Hall said. “I ran up to her truck to reassure her, and she gave me a big smile. Evidently she remembered just talking to me.”

The woman asked if anyone knew where her friend was. She handed Hall her phone so she could call him. The woman’s friend turned out to be her husband, who answered. He was greatly relieved, which for Hall, was “the best feeling ever.”

The sheriff’s deputy took her into North Platte to wait for her husband.

The couple were moving from Wyoming to Tennessee. He was driving a U-Haul truck and she was following. She fell behind and became disoriented. Her husband said the two had talked on the phone but she couldn’t explain where she was or follow directions to meet him. He had not talked to her for three hours. 

Hall said she learned that the woman was lacking sleep. That, and the strange area, contributed to her confusion.

Hall probably saved the woman’s life, her husband said. 

“She was in good hands, so I went back to my route,” Hall told the Bulletin. I hope to see her and give her a hug because she trusted me, and allowed me to help.”

The couple got a good night’s sleep and set out again on Sunday. Hall helped the husband download a tracking app on her phone.

“I think everyone needs to know the signs of dementia, and ask the right questions. I’m just glad that I didn’t blow her off and let her leave,” Hall said. “She could have ended up anywhere, or worse.”

Hall travels 85 miles a day on her mail route and comes across a lot of situations.

“This one I will remember forever and I’m glad it turned out like it did,” she said.  

Signs of Dementia from the Mayo Clinic

  • Problems communicating or finding words.
  • Trouble with visual and spatial abilities, such as getting lost while driving.
  • Problems with reasoning or problem-solving.
  • Trouble performing complex tasks.
  • Trouble with planning and organizing.
  • Poor coordination and control of movements.
  • Confusion and disorientation.

Tips for listening to a person with dementia from alzheimers.org

  • Listen carefully to what the person is saying. Offer encouragement both verbally and non-verbally, for example by making eye contact and nodding. This ‘active listening’ can help improve communication.
  • The person’s body language can show a lot about their emotions. The expression on their face and the way they hold themselves can give you clear signals about how they are feeling when they communicate.
  • If you haven’t fully understood what the person has said, ask them to repeat it. If you are still unclear, rephrase their answer to check your understanding of what they meant.
  • If the person with dementia has difficulty finding the right word or finishing a sentence, ask them to explain it in a different way. Listen and look out for clues. If they cannot find the word for a particular object, ask them to describe it instead.

Supporting the person to express themselves

  • Allow the person plenty of time to respond – it may take them longer to process the information and work out their response.
  • Try not to interrupt the person – even to help them find a word – as it can break the pattern of communication.
  • If the person is upset, let them express their feelings. Allow them the time that they need, and try not to dismiss their worries – sometimes the best thing to do is just listen, and show that you are there.

How to communicate

  • Communicate clearly and calmly.
  • Use short, simple sentences.
  • Don’t talk to the person as you would to a child – be patient and have respect for them.
  • Try to communicate with the person in a conversational way, rather than asking question after question which may feel quite tiring or intimidating.
  • Include the person in conversations with others. It is important not to speak as though they are not there. Being included can help them to keep their sense of identity and know they are valued. It can also help them to feel less excluded or isolated.
  • If the person becomes tired easily, then short, regular conversations may be better.
  • Avoid speaking sharply or raising your voice.   

How to pace conversations

  • Go at a slightly slower pace than usual if the person is struggling to follow you.
  • Allow time between sentences for the person to process the information and respond. These pauses might feel uncomfortable if they become quite long, but it is important to give the person time to respond.
  • Try to let the person complete their own sentences, and try not to be too quick to assume you know what they are trying to say.

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