Your aging parent is living with you. He has become a little confused lately, but you shrug it off as normal aging. You worry about whether he is developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, but you do not want to think about that for long. Then, one day when you come home from work, he is not there. You suddenly must know what to do, when your elderly loved one goes missing.
According to AARP, if you have searched your house and yard unsuccessfully for 15 minutes, call 911. Time is of the essence when a senior goes missing. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that as many as half of the people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease who wander, will experience serious injury or death if not found within 24 hours. Exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat or dehydration can be lethal to a wandering senior. There is also the risk of drowning. Knowing what to do when your aging loved one wanders off, can save his life.
Get neighbors and friends to help search
You need as many people as possible as quickly as possible to help search. Therefore, reach out at once to the people in your neighborhood for help. They know the area and are likely to recognize your loved one. Know that your loved one may hide from the searchers. If he finds his way home and sees emergency vehicles there, he may wander off again out of fear.
Have a plan
More than half of the people with Alzheimer’s or dementia will wander at some point, and many do so repeatedly. Since wandering is a frequent occurrence with the elderly, have an action plan. It is much better to plot out the steps to take, before you are in a crisis.
How to create an action plan for when your elderly loved one goes missing
According to NBC News, some states participate in Silver Alerts, an Amber Alert-like program for missing seniors. Alabama uses Silver Alerts.
Have your loved one wear a tracking bracelet, and consider placing a GPS chip or other tracking device in his watch and shoes. If your loved one is suffering from cognitive issues, he may remove one item. Therefore, it is essential to have multiple devices in place. Tracking devices can cut the search time down to minutes, instead of hours. Pinpointing your loved one’s location quickly, can save his life. This is especially important, if he is wandering near a body of water.
Prepare flyers with color photos of your loved one, her physical description and your contact information. This information will help search volunteers and law enforcement who do not know your loved one. Have your loved one’s fingerprints available for law enforcement.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
If you have reason to believe your aging loved one is likely to wander due to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it is time to consider moving her into assisted living. This decision is for her safety.
Every state addresses elder law issues differently. Please consult an elder law attorney in Alabama about how to best care for your aging loved one.
National Elder Law Foundation. “Silver Alert: What to do when a Senior goes Missing.” (accessed July 5, 2017) http://www.nelf.org/silver-alert-what-to-do-when-a-senior-goes-missing/
Australian Federal Police. “Elderly Missing Persons.” (accessed July 5, 2017) https://www.missingpersons.gov.au/how-can-i-help/prevention/elderly-missing-persons
AARP. “When Elders Go Missing.” (accessed July 5, 2017) http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-02-2011/when_elders_go_missing.html
Project Far From Home. “Part III b: Special Challenges: Alzheimer’s Disease.” (accessed July 5, 2017) http://www.k9team.org/files/articles/Project%20Far%20From%20Home%20-%20Missing%20at%20Risk.pdf
Alzheimer’s Association. “Three out of Five People with Alzheimer’s Disease Will Wander.” (accessed July 5, 2017) http://www.alz.org/norcal/in_my_community_18411.asp
NBCNEWS.com. “Silver Alerts help track wandering seniors.” (accessed July 5, 2017) http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26293194/ns/health-aging/t/silver-alerts-help-track-wandering-seniors/#.WV2GFdPyv-Y