Today I saw a woman’s face on a Facebook post. She was missing. You know the story…elderly woman with dementia goes down the driveway to pick flowers and is suddenly gone. What do you do if you are this woman’s family?
1. I would like to address being prepared for someone who has dementia and is mobile. Have some sort of tracking device on that person. It could be a bracelet, necklace, or on their shoes or even in their phone if they carry a cell phone. (https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/safety/technology-101). Some type of identification on them, as well: their name and current address and possible contact number.
2. Each day take a current picture of your loved one in what they are wearing that day. A current picture helps authorities to have a present idea of what your loved one looks like. That picture, taken every day, can be a huge help to the authorities because you have a description of their clothing and hair color, etc. If you haven’t taken a picture, DO NOT show the authorities an old picture from 5 years ago. Show them the most current picture available.
3. If your loved one is a wanderer, do not leave them alone. If they qualify, enroll them in a day program. If they do not, find people(family member, neighbor, church friend) who can either be their companion or pay for a person to stay with them. Do not leave them alone!
4. Be aware of their former habits. Many people with dementia time travel. Think about places they might go in relationship to the past, ie where they worked, went to church, where family lived decades ago. Especially if they took the car!
5. Speaking of the car, it might be time to take the keys away. Disable their car or sell it. Give them a fake set of keys, if keys give them security.
Now on to what might you do if your loved one is missing…
Alert family, friends, neighbors, and anyone who might know your loved one. Call 911 and ask to instute a Mattie’s Call. What is this?
Created as an Act by the Georgia State Legislature in 2006, the Mattie’s Call is named for Mattie Moore; a 67-year-old Atlanta woman with Alzheimer’s who went missing from her home in 2004. She was found dead eight months later in a wooded area about 250 yards from her front door.
From the Mattie’s Call website:( http://www.mattiescallga.com/)
Mattie’s Call Act, enacted April 28, 2006, is located in Article 7, Section 1 of Georgia House Bill 728. Mattie’s Call is a state-wide emergency alert for missing adults with disabilities, broadly defined as “individuals who are developmentally impaired or who suffer from dementia or some other cognitive impairment” by Georgia legislature. The system is activated by local law enforcement agencies, who notify the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (G.B.I) in the event of a missing person. Although families are not required to provide specific documentation to initiate Mattie’s Call, preparing the necessary information in advance may quicken the investigative and recovery process.
What is required to activate Mattie’s Call?
Although families are not required to provide specific documentation to initiate Mattie’s Call, assembling records about the missing person’s appearance, diagnosis and behaviors in advance may accelerate the investigative and recovery process. In this section, we explain Mattie’s Call activation criteria and discuss how to prepare the essential information that law enforcement agencies need to initiate the statewide alert and locate your loved one.
Criteria 1: A local law enforcement agency believes a disabled person is missing and is in immediate danger of serious bodily injury or death.
Proof of disability may be a letter, report or statement from the missing person’s primary care physician or relevant medical professional on official letterhead stationery. The statement should report the overall health of the individual, including all chronic conditions, and clarify the potential health consequences if the individual is not promptly and safely recovered. Records from a federal agency that issues disability benefits, such as the Social Security Administration, may also be sufficient.
Criteria 2: Through its own investigation, the law enforcement agency verifies the disappearance and eliminates alternative explanations for the disabled person’s disappearance. Families should be able to explain the missing person’s typical schedule and the circumstances leading up to his or her disappearance, including the time and location of where the individual was last seen, the name and contact information of the last person who saw the individual, and the direction the individual was traveling. Be sure to mention if the individual exhibited any self-injurious behaviors or an unstable emotional state in conversations prior to his or her disappearance.
Criteria 3: Sufficient information is available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the disabled person.
The local law enforcement agency will need descriptive information about the missing person to activate Mattie’s Call. Necessary information includes the individual’s full name, date of birth, birthplace, nickname(s), and current and former addresses and employers. Families should also have access to a recent photograph and be able to provide the missing person’s race, sex, age, height, weight, hair color and length, eye color, facial hair, and visible distinguishing marks (birthmarks, moles, scars, tattoos). Remember to provide the missing person’s preferred modes of communication, and explain any social, language, and emotional difficulties.
Law enforcement will also need specific information about the missing person’s appearance the last time he or she was seen, including the style and color of the individual’s clothing and footwear, glasses (if applicable), jewelry (if applicable), and headwear (if applicable).
Criteria 4: The missing disabled person is entered into the National Crime Information Center (N.C.I.C.) database.
National Crime Information Center’s (N.C.I.C.) Missing Person File, managed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, contains records for missing adults with disabilities until “the individual is located or the record is canceled by the entering agency.” For missing adults with disabilities, law enforcement agencies must file a missing persons report using the E.M.D. category (verifies that the individual has a “proven physical or mental disability”) and provide signed documentation from a parent, legal guardian, next of kin, or another reliable source to verify contents of the report.
Criteria 5: The law enforcement agency must issue a statewide broadcast to law enforcement/911 centers and contact local media regarding the missing person.
The law enforcement agency will notify other agencies, centers, and offices in the state. A non-profit organization, A Child is Missing, and the Georgia Lottery Corporation will also be informed. A Child is Missing uses recorded telephone messages to alert residents and retailers in the area the missing individual was last seen. The Georgia Lottery Corporation leverages businesses in the target area to disseminate information about the missing person to its customers.
The profile of the missing person will be posted on Georgia Association of Broadcaster’s AlertNet.
In closing, if you have a loved one with dementia, be proactive rather than reactive. Be three steps ahead of where they are. Plan ahead for the declines and be informed and educated! I can help…