When a loved one with Alzheimer’s goes missing, it’s a cruel moment for the family.
In early April, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that the LAPD was seeking the public’s help in locating a 79-year-old Northridge woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and was last seen Friday evening, March 28, in the 17000 block of Plummer Street in Northridge.
Yong Hyan Kim is an Asian woman with white hair, brown eyes, about 5 feet tall and 100 pounds. A mere slip of a thing.
This story ended on a happy note. She was found unharmed before noon on Monday. Much relief all round.
Yet it seems that there is a news story weekly—or sometimes daily—about Alzheimer’s patients wandering away from home. It’s all too common, and here’s why.
According to an Alzheimer’s Foundation of America report:
“Every person with dementia who can walk as well as those who continue to drive are at risk of becoming lost … An example would be someone who may take what would normally be a routine walk or drive and then suddenly be unable to find his or her way home.”
No matter how close an eye you are keeping on them, they can wander away in the wink of an eye. Further, it’s often an issue with those in the earlier stages, because they seem to be managing well, and then there’s that one, tipping-point day…
Special-interest groups have been working toward a safety net, but it takes time. And caregivers have to opt into the system.
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded three grants under the “Enhancing Law Enforcement: Missing Alzheimer’s Patient Assistance Program,” including Project Lifesaver International, a terrific program doing Herculean work.
Citizens enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a small personal transmitter around the wrist or ankle that emits an individualized tracking signal. If an enrolled client goes missing, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency, and an emergency team trained to handle dementia (and other cognitively impaired) patient responds to the wanderer’s area.
Most who wander are found within a few miles from home, and search times have been reduced from hours and days to minutes. Recovery times for PLI clients average 30 minutes — 95 percent less time than standard operations.
PJI has expanded into regions all over Canada, the U.S., Australia; new municipalities sign up daily. But there is still a lot of work to be done, as many paramedics and police authorities are still not trained in the delicate handling of those suffering from dementia, and may treat them as difficult or as children, increasing anxiety and making a tricky situation worse.
To enrol your loved one, go to: Project Lifesaver
In the meantime, let’s stop and give a thought to the family of Yong Hyan Kim in L.A. That story ended happily ever after. Let’s push tso hat more missing people stories end as well
For more on the AFA’s “Lost and Found” policy document, go to: Project Lifesaver
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