Wandering & Alzheimer's Disease: Ensuring Care Centers Keep Aging Floridians Safe
Our population is aging. According to the Administration on Aging, the number of people age 65 and older grew from 35 million in 2000 to 41.4 million in 2011, with the total expected to skyrocket to 92 million in 2060. Looked at another way, 13.3% of the population was age 65 or older in 2011, but is expected to account for 21% of the population by 2040. With this increase comes a parallel increase in the number of people affected by age-related disease, including Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. One issue of grave concern to our Panama City elder care attorney is the problem of wandering by Alzheimer's patients or others with mental afflictions.
Georgia Alzheimer's Patient Found 24 Hours After Wandering from Home
Earlier this month, a potential tragedy was averted when a missing Georgia man was located by staff members at a Walmart store, a story detailed by reports from The Johns Creek Patch web portal. Robert Larry Massey, a 71-year-old man who has Alzheimer's disease, went missing from his family home around 10 P.M. on Sunday November 3rd.
Family members reported that the gray-haired, blue-eyed, 6-foot, 240 pound man had been wearing Florida State University gear when he disappeared. Thankfully, police received a call the following night that staff at a local Walmart spotted Massey sitting in an electric cart as the store was preparing to close. The employees contacted police after recognizing Massey from a missing person's alert. He was safely reunited with his family.
Statistics and Tips on Wandering/Elopement by Alzheimer's Patients
Studies suggest that the majority, approximately 60%, of Alzheimer's patients will eventually wander (also known as "elopement"). Concerned family members and caregivers of patients can find useful tips for addressing wandering on both the Mayo Clinic and National Institute on Aging websites. In addition to locking doors, using alarm systems, and installing out-of-reach deadbolts, camouflaging doors and doorknobs can help "short-circuit" the wandering impulse. Mirrors or even a stop sign can provide a similar deterrent. Likewise, activities can serve as a distraction, particularly if the person tends to wander at a certain time.
In case wandering does occur, identification sewn into clothing and even GPS devices can help ensure a loved one makes it back home. Technology can also be installed in vehicles to help find a motorist if there is a concern the individual may drive instead of walk. Where practical, alerting neighbors of the potential for wandering can also help. Law enforcement should be notified if an Alzheimer's patient disappears. Regardless of whether foul play is suspected, police may issue a Silver Alert, a lesser-known equivalent to the Amber Alerts used when children are missing.
Protecting Our Loved Ones in their Later Years
While it is certainly not always the case, wandering can be the result of unmet needs. If your loved one starts wandering after being placed in a care center, talk to the individual about their care, and call our Panama City nursing home abuse lawyer if you suspect mistreatment and/or neglect. We can help with the investigation process.
Further, if a relative suffers harm or dies because a nursing center failed to take reasonable steps to prevent/control wandering, call our office to discuss your loved one's legal rights. Attorney Pittman and his team share a commitment to stopping and remedying elder abuse in all forms. Call to learn more.