As the rates of dementia diagnoses continue to rise, the public can play a role to help those suffering from the degenerative disease, an Alzheimer's Society spokesperson says.

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Linda Fontaine, a public education co-ordinator with the Azheimer's Society in Sudbury, says it's appropriate to approach people who appear to be wandering to ask if they need help. (CBC)

Linda Fontaine of the Alzheimer's society in Sudbury said those living with the disease are often seen wandering in a straight line.

It's appropriate to approach the individual and ask if help is needed, she said, adding that when people with dementia wander, they are often looking for their home.

"They want to look for something familiar," the society’s public educator said. "Ask if you can help. Help is a good word, it's a good trigger."

Ask the same question at least three times, she said, and speak slowly and gently.

"Pause between the questions and [don’t use] complicated words," Fontaine added.

"We never address them as babies — ever."

Making direct eye contact is also important.

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Debbie Serafini's husband, Dennis, suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. (CBC)

Having other people keeping watch for those who may be suffering from dementia — and needing assistance — is a comfort to people like Debbie Serafini, whose husband, Dennis, suffers from Alzheimer’s.

She recalled a time when she told Dennis to "stay-put" on a mall bench and thought he understood.

"He was very cognitive that day, I had absolutely no belief that he wouldn't understand," she said.

But when Debbie returned — only a few minutes later — the bench was empty.

"We ended up having to call the police to go look for him."

In the end, Dennis Serafini had wandered home.