Both of them were just trying to get home...
A retired U.S. Air Force colonel was taking his beloved dog for a walk. It was a freezing night and he became confused about which house was his in North Georgia when he was shot and killed by a frightened homeowner.
She had gone for a drive but could not find her way home. She parked her car in the driveway of an unoccupied Atlanta suburb home 13 miles away and wandered into the wooded backyard where she laid down exhausted and died not far from her car. She was found dead 5 days after leaving her home.
They were both 72 years old. Each suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Both experienced the terrible fate that those with dementia who wander too often receive.
There are currently more than 120,000 Georgians diagnosed with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Two out of three will wander throughout the duration of the disease. If not found within the first 24 hours, there is a 50% chance that they will not be found alive. One out of three who wander is driving when they become lost or disoriented. Keeping individuals with Alzheimer's disease safe is a top priority for the Alzheimer’s Association and something we have been hard at work at for years.
In 2006, we led the effort to create Mattie’s Call, a state-wide alert similar to the Amber Alert, but specifically for those with dementia who wander and become lost.
On average, we train 2,500 law enforcement officers and public safety personnel in Georgia each year on the process and protocols of finding and searching for those who wander.
We offer local family and caregiver training on managing the risks associated with wandering.
We enroll families in the vitally important Medic Alert/Safe Return, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service. In the event families do not have the means, we scholar them into the program.
Through our network of 7 regional offices throughout Georgia, we take immediate action when a person is reported missing. A Mattie’s Call is implemented, law enforcement is contacted, we work with the family, and often times, participate directly in coordinating and implementing search and rescue efforts.
We partner with local law enforcement, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and many K-9 rescue groups throughout Georgia. We are there whenever and however we are needed, and are currently involved in more than 10 searches a month.
As always in public service, education is the key. The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way in creating public awareness of how to minimize risks associated with wandering. Our vital message for those with a loved one with Alzheimer’s is:
The tragic events of this past Thanksgiving cast light on the dangers and magnitude of a rapidly increasing community health problem: Wandering. When those with Alzheimer’s wander they put themselves and often times others at risk. We can and must do better here. We must increase awareness, training, support and education to all Georgians – families, caregivers, public safety officers and the general public. We must double our efforts NOW. We must keep Georgians safe.
This is our end-of-year letter, and this one is a bit different. Similar to the past, we thank you for all you do for us, and ask for your continued support. More than that, we now ask for you to strengthen your commitment to this fight. Your Alzheimer’s Association is doing great work daily. We are leaders and have become vital, but we are only as strong as our support. The epidemic that is Alzheimer’s disease is upon us. Many need our help. Please give generously.
Alzheimer's Association, Georgia Chapter
P.S. We are here 24 hours a day at 800-272-3900. Please contact us for further information or assistance.
To eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research and promotion of brain health, and to enhance care and support for all individuals,their families and caregivers.
A world without Alzheimer's disease.