Lifesaving tools to protect seniors with dementia and children with autism

In Hampton Roads and across the country there are resources for all seniors with dementia, who experts say commonly wander away from their homes.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — There is help for the children and grandchildren of people suffering from dementia, and 10 On Your Side is hoping that it could avoid another a heartbreaking case like the one we had this week.

Gerald Adams, 81, disappeared Sunday night. Police say his body was found late Monday in the cold behind a church in Newport News.

In Hampton Roads and across the country there are resources for all seniors with dementia, who experts say commonly wander away from home.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 in 10 people with dementia will wander and get lost — many do so repeatedly. And 50 percent of them, if not found within the first 24 hours, could be severely injured or die as a result.

Police say Gerald Adams wandered away from home three times the week before his body was found.

Gino Colombara, the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Southeastern Virginia Chapter, says it is important to supervise seniors with dementia, but, of course, they often have a mind of their own.

“We have had families who an individual is one mile away from their home and doesn’t know how to get back,” said Colombara.

Colombara understands the anxiety family members face when a loved one with dementia wanders.

“My dad had the disease and he wandered from Florida to New York, got mugged in New York. He ended up in the hospital and didn’t give his correct name.”

Colombara says it is important to reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association to learn about the MedicAlert and safe return program, which includes bracelets and necklaces with information.

The association offers scholarships, so it costs nothing to those who cannot afford it. The organization also works closely with Project Lifesaver, which is a device that can track down a child with autism or adult with dementia when the person is wearing it.

Paul Ballance knows the tool well.

Tuesday was Ballance’s first day as Chief Operating Officer at Project Lifesaver, but he’s a former Norfolk Sheriff’s deputy and used it often to track down hundreds of lost people.

“I would say of the 733 rescues in the region, I’ve been apart of easily over 350 people of them and that’s just in Norfolk,” said Ballance.

Project Lifesaver: http://hamptonroadscares.org/show/project-lifesaver-chesapeake-va or call: (757) 546-5502

Chapter Website: https://www.alz.org/seva/

MedicAlert + Safe Return: https://www.alz.org/care/dementia-medic-alert-safe-return.asp

The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline is 1.800.272.3900.