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Missing Person

Thursday July 1, 2021

missing person, figure wanders city streets with question mark over head

We have all seen Silver Alerts on our smartphones or the news: “86-year-old Woman with Dementia Missing” or “79-year-old Man Missing After Not Returning Home from the Grocery Store.” These stories are heartbreaking. And if you care for someone with dementia, you have most likely worried about what would happen if your loved one went missing.

What if your husband wanders out the front door during the 5 minutes you are in the shower?
What if your wife finds the car keys and drives away while you are doing yard work in the backyard?
What if your dad waders out of the house while you are cooking breakfast?

These are all very real scenarios. We hope these things never happen to you, but if your loved one does wander, it is important to be prepared. You cannot totally prevent wandering, but there are things you can do to help keep your loved one safe.

Things To Do BEFORE Your Loved One Wanders

Medical Alert Bracelet

There are all different kinds of medical alert tags, such as bracelets, necklaces, dog tags, and shoelace charms. They can look like nice jewelry or like a Fitbit-type band.  Most importantly, they share important information (name, diagnosis, who to contact in emergency, etc.). This can be very helpful if your loved one wanders away and cannot remember who/what phone number to call.

Some medical alert devices have smart technology with tracking, but honestly, anything is better than nothing. So, if you are on a budget, a simple dog tag necklace is better than nothing.

Find My Phone

If your loved one usually carries a cell phone or wears a smartwatch, turn on the “Find My Phone” or “Find My Device” feature which will allow you to track your loved one. Just keep in mind that this only works if they keep that device on their person, and the feature must be turned on before they wander off.

In Case of Emergency Card

If your loved one carries a wallet or purse, put a card in the wallet that says, “In case of emergency, please call…” and list several contacts.

Door Chimes

If you are caring for a loved one at home, there is no possible way that you can keep your eyes on your loved one at every moment. We suggest installing door chimes or alarms on exit doors. They alarm when the door opens, and the magnetic seal is broken. This will alert you that your loved one has opened the door, so you can respond quickly.

Here is an example of an affordable door alarm package.

Hide Car Keys

While your loved one may not drive anymore, they may forget that they no longer drive. Mom may find the keys and head out while you have stepped into the bathroom. Keep the keys out of sight and safely locked away.

Keep a Recent Picture on Your Phone

If someone goes missing, the police want a recent picture – not one from 10 years ago. Keep a recent picture of your loved one on your phone. If you are traveling, take a new picture every day, so you will have a picture of your loved one and what they are wearing that day.

What To Do if Your Loved One Goes Missing

Call 911. Don’t wait! The sooner the police get involved, the sooner they can help while the search area is small. Wait until AFTER your call the police to check with neighbors, drive around, and call friends. These things take up precious time. The police should be your first call, not a last-ditch effort.

Written by Sheri Wammack, LBSW