Top tips for families with elders at risk of wandering away

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In Montgomery County an average of two to five vulnerable people go missing every week. Many of them are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

There are so many cases, the police department has a unit dedicated to finding them.

Saturday, they found a 78-year-old woman who had wandered from home overnight. She was wearing only pajamas, slippers and a red stocking cap when police found her. She was trapped in the bottom of a wooded ravine near her home, according to an emotional Facebook Post put up by the department Tuesday.

Officer Laurie Reyes heads up the Montgomery County Police Department's Autism/Intellectual Disabilities (IDD) Outreach Unit, which includes people with dementia.

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Reyes offers these top tips for families dealing with vulnerable family members at risk of wandering:

  1. Identification: Vulnerable people should wear bracelets or other identification alerting people to their risk. The department offers free bracelets to affected families.
  2. Alarms: Many people with dementia confuse day and night and are known to wander during overnight hours when caregivers and family members are asleep. Alarms should be installed on doors to alert caregivers if someone is leaving the home.
  3. Notification: Families should send a letter to all neighbors, even ones they don't know, alerting them to potential wandering by a vulnerable family member. Police have a sample letter on their website that can be used for people with many different vulnerabilities.
  4. Call Immediately: For a variety of reasons, Reyes has found many people fear calling 9-1-1 immediately when a vulnerable person wanders away. She urged families and caregivers to call immediately, even if they think they can find the vulnerable person themselves. Time is of the essence when protecting vulnerable people.