Cops hold class focused on searching for Alzheimer's patients

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett County police held a two-hour class for volunteers and citizens police academy alumni Thursday night, the focus on organized searches and Alzheimer's patients.

Some Alzheimer's patients wander away from home on foot or in a car, something that is particularly dangerous for those suffering from memory loss and typically on other medications. Earlier this month, an 84-year-old Lilburn man who suffered from dementia went missing before being discovered 24 hours later -- 300 miles away in South Carolina.

Thursday's class offered tips for helping resolve similar incidents once they occur.

"Alzheimer's is something that's affected a lot of us," Citizens Police Academy Alumni Assocation president John Clark said.

After a general search and rescue presentation by Ray Parker for Gwinnett police's crime scene unit, Kim Franklin of the Alzheimer's Association provided more tailored tips.

When searching, search "smart, not loud." Those with Alzheimer's typically don't respond to shouts, and they can cause them to go the opposite direction.

Use the person's nickname.

Check familiar and relevant locations first. Alzheimer's patients typically revert to long-term memory.

Search in the direction of the person's dominant hand.

Persons with dementia are often found in unusual places. Do not ignore ditches, sheds, attics, basements or "landscape trouble spots."

A driving person with dementia will typically go until they stop because of an obstacle or run out of gas.

Notify law enforcement as soon as possible. If not located within 24 hours, there is a 46 percent chance that wandering individuals will be found seriously injured or dead.