Last year, the police received a record number of reports of nuisance caused by people with confused behaviour. In the municipality of Oirschot, the number of complaints has even tripled. This could be due to the troubled time, loneliness and shortages in mental health care. But what exactly is ‘confused behaviour’? And who shows that? Karlijn Poelmans of the Wijk GGD explains.
Karlijn Poelmans works at the GGD Hart voor Brabant as a district GGD’er. Or as a connector, as she calls it. If the police receive a report of someone with confused behaviour, the GGD is often called in. Poelmans then examines, among other things, what the problem is, how people can best be helped and she ensures that they receive the right help. “We mainly work preventively and signaling. I make the connection between social workers, the police and the municipality.”
Poelmans cannot simply answer the question of what confused behavior is. “It can happen to anyone,” she emphasizes. “People often immediately think of someone who is psychotic and who throws roof tiles down from a roof. That is not always the case. The percentage of reports about people with a psychiatric background is very small compared to the rest.”
“It can happen to you too.”
It is often precisely the things that happen quietly. Poelmans: “Older people can be forgetful. For example, a man who no longer knows where his house is, or a woman who shuffles across the street in her nightgown at night. We also sometimes receive reports from the supermarket that there has been a woman who does exactly the same shopping every day, while the groceries from the previous day are still in her bag.”
But not only older people can display confused behavior. Think of someone who has had an accident or suffers from addiction problems. “Or a man who hasn’t slept for nights because he hears a tapping pipe. He may think it’s the neighbors who are after him and then bang on the wall very loudly at night.”
Poelmans says that there can be various reasons why someone behaves confused. “It only takes a little thing to happen and it can happen to you too.” Sleep deprivation, for example, can make people vulnerable. “Then it can happen that you start seeing things that aren’t there, or suddenly think that everyone is against you. Your brain can really play tricks on you,” she explains.
“Everyone has their limits.”
It may be that someone is in a psychosis or hallucinates, so that they think they are being followed or are suspicious of family members. But a bladder infection can also cause damage. “Older people can be confused by something as simple as a bladder infection. It may look like they are very psychotic or demented, but they are actually very vulnerable.”
In addition, according to Poelmans, the current society is not helping, with the mutual tensions, shortages in health care and considerable inflation. “Society can be so tough right now. I think a lot of people break very easily now. Everyone has their limits.”
At the Wijk GGD, Poelmans can prevent things from getting out of hand for people who are confused. “The police cannot always do something with those reports. The advantage, if it reaches us, is that we are really at the beginning of these types of cases. That is why the District GGD is of such added value.”