Act quickly with wandering Alzheimer patients

Journal Staff

Saturday is a trigger for Patricia Wright.

The entertainment options are the slimmest that day at the assisted living home where 83-year-old lives.

So Saturday is the day she tends to wander.

Wright, who has dementia, became lost during one of those strolls last summer, and precariously ventured through a bustling construction zone at the Northgate shopping plaza.

When she learned her mom was missing Diane Robb called 911 immediately.

“It’s the very first thing – even if they’ve only been gone for 30 minutes – to do because time is of the essence,” Robb said, who got her mom back after a keen observer spotted Wright wandering near her home and alerted authorities.

“My mother was actually gone for seven hours and it was quite hot that day.”

Unfortunately, it’s not a rare occurrence.

Robb said about 3,000 people in Sarnia suffer from dementia, a gradual loss of mental function sever enough to interfere with a person’s daily life.

Some patients are prone to wandering, often without proper clothing for the elements.

The Alzheimer Society of Sarnia Lambton says a misconception about when to involve the authorities in a search could be complicating matters.

You are not required to wait 48 hours before reporting a missing adult to police, as some believe.

“If you have a family member or know someone who has gone missing, please get police involved right away,” said Christine Wright, the local education coordinator.

Sarnia Police agree.

“It is an emergency,” said media officer Const. Les Jones.

“These folks can wander unprepared for the environmental conditions,” which can lead to “dehydration, heat stroke and hypothermia,” he said.

Families are encouraged to register their loved ones with the Safely Home program.

The program provides a bracelet or necklace containing an address, which police say can greatly assist when someone gets lost.

Robb entered her mother in the program after she wandered off last summer.

“It’s so important to register,” she said.