Elderly Woman with Dementia Found after Wandering Around All Night
Posted Dec 17 2009 6:54am
Some lessons to be learned about Alzheimer's and wandering.
I could put up one or more stories every day about someone who is lost and wandering around. Most often they are elderly and suffering from dementia.
I decided to put this one up because I think there are some lessons to be learned.
I want to start by congratulating the Frederick, Maryland police force. Great organization and commitment. What an effort. To find the missing elderly woman the Frederick police had to use 50 to 60 police and civilians, and four civilian K-9 search and rescue groups. Wow.
Keep in my mind the missing woman was on foot -- not in a car.
They finally found her conscious, on a property adjoining her home. She was found huddled up against a piece of plywood near an old shed. Evidently she was walking around earlier because the area where she was found had been searched more than once.
Looking for someone who is lost and suffering from Alzheimer's is often like looking for a needle in a haystack.
The temperature in Frederick fell to thirty degrees during the night with a wind chill near 20 degrees. The lost woman was out in that weather for at least 8 hours.
Ever lose someone in a store? Wander around in the store before you finally spot them?
You might read the story below and conclude her son is a bad person. That is not my conclusion.
I now understand that life is more complicated than it might appear in a newspaper article. You need to put food on the table, and keep a roof over your head. Alzheimer's and dementia are very difficult to understand and accept. I know this for certain because it took me years to get a grip on the disease, and I was working on it 24/7.
The son must be a good person. After all the 84 year old woman is living at home, not in a care facility and he is living with her. Like it or not, most of elderly folks want to stay at home. It is their wish.
It never stops amazing me how difficult it is to find someone suffering from Alzheimer's once they start wandering.
This case shows how difficult. 60 people, 4 canines and it still took 8 hours. And, it appears she was never far from her own home.
Patches of missing dew on grass and vegetation led two Maryland State Police Troopers to a missing elderly woman on Wednesday.
Florence Lorraine Leatherman, 84, who suffers from dementia and had disappeared from her home in freezing temperatures Tuesday, was taken to an area hospital for examination after being found about 8 a.m., said Lt. Michael Brady, Frederick barrack commander.
Special Tactical Assault Team Element members Sgt. Daniel Weaver and Cpl. Jason Crowe found Leatherman after noticing missing patches of dew on the ground. The men are trained to track people by looking for subtle clues, such as broken branches on trees, Brady said.
"It's a pretty amazing story," he said.
Leatherman lives with her son, Allen Leatherman, in a home in the 8400 block of Myersville Road, police said. Allen Leatherman left the home about 3 p.m. Tuesday, and his mother was missing when he returned about 10 p.m. Family members searched the area for about 40 minutes and then called police.
Leatherman was believed to be wearing only a gray sweater and tan pants.
About 50 to 60 police and civilians searched about a half-mile radius around her home during the overnight hours, Brady said. As well as troopers from two barracks, responders included four civilian K-9 search and rescue groups, state police aviation, Frederick County Sheriff's Office deputies, Frederick Police Department officers and Maryland Department of Natural Resources police.
The temperature dropped to a low of 30 degrees at 6 a.m. Wednesday, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Heather Sheffield. With wind chill, the temperature would have felt like 22 degrees.
Weaver and Crowe found Leatherman conscious on a property adjoining her home, Brady said. She was wearing a coat and was huddled up against a piece of plywood near an old shed.
"She was extremely cold," he said.
Leatherman was bundled up in blankets, put in an ambulance and evaluated by EMS officials before going to hospital, Brady said.
Police think she may have been walking around most of the night, which made it more difficult to track her. The area she was found in was thoroughly searched by K-9 units during the night, but she was not there at the time.
Brady was pleased with the successful outcome.
"It was a total team effort," he said. The search "went exceptionally well. Everyone worked together well."
Bob DeMarco is the editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for news, advice, and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob has written more than 950 articles with more than 8,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.