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KUT News Staff
As Elderly Population Increases, So Do Senior Disappearances
Summer is often a time to sit back, relax, and lather on the sunscreen. But those with elderly family members might want to think twice before letting their summer routines go lax.
Senior Helpers, an in-home care service for the elderly, recently released a “Senior Lost and Found Plan” to combat the increase in senior disappearances.
“Nationwide, there’s an uptake in senior disappearances,” said Frank Hayes with the Austin-area Senior Helpers. Hayes attributes the increase in senior population at a national level with the rising rate of missing elderly.
The Capital Area Council of Governments recently released a survey showing that the aging population in Central Texas will nearly double in the next two decades. The survey projects that the number of Austinites over the age of 65 will double to make up nearly 20 percent of the population by 2040.
“A lot of people don’t even think about it, but there are a lot of senior citizens that are driving, and they just forget where they are going,” said Hayes. “They drive around and they get totally lost.”
So what does this have to do with summer?
Forgetfulness and heat make a bad combination, explained Hayes.
The Senior Helpers note that summer is a particularly dangerous time for the elderly to go missing. Age-related illnesses such as dementia impair seniors’ ability to remember directions, like where they are going and why.
“Seniors – not just the ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia, but seniors in general – lose their ability to sense that they are dehydrated,” said Hayes. Such wanderings can prove especially dangerous in high temperatures.
Here are some helpful tips from Senior Helpers about how to keep track of aging loved ones:
How Seniors Get Lost:
- Driving and forgetting directions or they can't find their destination.
- They make it to their destination but then can't find their car in the parking lot.
- Plan to meet at a familiar place and then can't find it.
- Go with family members and friends to a place and then get separated and/or lost.
- Wander or drive away from home and get completely lost - this is especially a problem with the elderly with dementia and/or Alzheimer's. Of the 5 million people who suffer from Alzheimer's, 60 percent of them will wander and become lost at some point during the disease. And sadly, of those who are lost for more than 72 hours, 80 percent never make it home.
Senior Helpers "Senior Lost and Found Action Plan":
- Give your senior a Smart phone and create an "If I'm Lost" folder on the home screen - in the folder, include the senior’s family and caregiver numbers, 911, a cab company phone number, and the senior's home address.
- Install a GPS tracking system on the senior's cell phone - make sure they have one for their car and they know how to use it.
- Make a plastic laminate card with all pertinent information – place this in your senior’s wallet and attach it to their car visor.
- Have your senior wear an ID bracelet - they come in very fashionable designs.