When the Elderly Go Missing – How to Keep Them Safe
When we think of the missing, we commonly think of missing children. Daily we see the faces of children who are reported missing and their photographs shared among thousands on the Internet. How often do we think of missing senior citizens?
According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as of January 31, 2013, there were 85,081 cases of missing persons in the United States. Of that number, there were 35,427 missing children cases ages 0-17 and 49,654 cases of missing persons ages 18-99. Lost within these statistics of missing persons are 12,066 cases of adults missing between the ages of 50-99. There are currently 7,890 individuals that are Unidentified, to include those found deceased or possibly hospitalized without identification.
When older adults go missing and reported to law enforcement, the majority face health related risks, and many suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Keeping those suffering early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be a hard task. Like children, it only takes a minute before you realize they have wandered off.
When seniors go missing, it can quickly turn into a high-risk situation. They not only become vulnerable to become crime victims, they face quickly succumbing to the elements. During winter when temperatures can be below zero in some areas of the country, during summer temperatures can reach extreme highs. Becoming a victim of exposure can happen very quickly.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, we can take preventive measures to help keep our loved ones safe. First, we recommended to enroll your loved one MedicAlert and Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return programs.
1. Have a routine can provide structure when carrying out daily activities. Creating a Daily Plan can be very helpful. The Alzheimer’s Association offers online assistance by visiting Creating a Daily Plan.
2. Try to identify the times of day your loved one may have a tendency to become restless, agitated, or experience anxiety. Plan activities and exercise during these times.
3. Avoid busy places that could cause confusion and never leave your loved one unattended.
4. Place exterior door locks out of the line of sight. You can place side-bolts at the top or bottom of the door.
5. You can camouflage doors and doorknobs by painting them the same color as the walls, or use childproof knobs.
6. Install a security system that alerts you when a door or window is opened.
7. Keep car keys in a secure place.
8. Keep a list of people to call for help and do not hesitate to call 911 if you find your loved one has wandered.
9. Keep a recent close-up photograph and all medical information available.
10. Consider utilizing a GPS device that can quickly identify their location.
In addition, we recommend registering yourself and your loved one with Next of Kin Registry (NOKR). NOKR is the central repository for Emergency Contact Information in the United States and 87 other countries. NOKR has recently collaborated with Microsoft HealthVault and is a free service that stores emergency contact information and provides free decals to place on your driver license or identification card. Enrolling ensures the emergency contact information for anyone of any age that may become the victim of an accident, missing, a natural disaster, or other emergency incident, is available to law enforcement to aide in reunification. For more information, please visit Next of Kin Registry.
About the Author: Kym L. Pasqualini is founder of the Nation’s missing Children Organization in 1994 and the National Center for Missing Adults in 2000. She served as CEO until January 2010. Kym is recognized as an expert in the field of missing persons, and has spent 20 years working with government officials, advocates, and national media. She is also a contributor to Lauth Investigations International and the Missing Persons Advocacy Network.