An Alzheimer Patient Simply Left His Residence and Vanished

Let’s Not Let This Happen Again

Alzheimer's patient, Harold Cantrell, missing from ALF
Harold Cantrell

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. In that year “fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million.”
Over the years there has been an increased awareness of Alzheimer’s, more targeted research and better tools for diagnosis. However, there are no cures in sight and 5.4 million is a scary number, a number that doesn’t give any comfort to Seniors, family members, and health care professionals who are touched by the disease. Even those not close to senior age are worried about their own propensity for the disease.
Once diagnosed an Alzheimer’s patient leads a life no longer their own. Patients on whom others depended are now the dependents. Families cope in different ways but the harrowing prospect of the future is crushing and unavoidable.
One very public problem Alzheimer’s disease presents goes beyond the confines of family or assisted-living life. Those suffering with Alzheimer’s can be prone to wandering, to getting lost and thus unable to find their way back home. Passers-by may notice something odd, not quite right, but unless otherwise educated would not recognize an Alzheimer’s patient in crisis. While passers-by may take such notice, there is an inherent respect for the privacy of others that preempts making assumptions about their welfare. Looking disheveled and having a blank look is not illegal. Subjective judgements and assumptions don’t necessarily encourage a passer-by to report them to law enforcement.

The gentleman simply got up and left his residence, and vanished.

In July of this year an Alzheimer’s patient walked out of his place of residence and disappeared.  He simply left and vanished, even though he was wearing a special Tile Bluetooth tracking device that electronically recorded his location.
This 85-year-old gentleman left his assisted living facility without his medications and the care he required for survival. Law authorities not only asked the community to join in the search physically, they asked that they download the Bluetooth app to their mobile devices to widen the net of those hoping to connect to the tracking Tile.

Let’s not let this happen again.

Did a passer-by see but not notice this was a man in need?  Would it have been wrong to report what might be dangerous behavior? Does a decision to report depend on a personal moral compass or a community obligation? People in the general public need to know there is a process in place for such reporting before an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing, so that immediate action can be taken when confronted with this situation. Churches, civic organizations, and health care associations are all in a position to address this crisis, to step up and spread the word and perhaps initiate a community action group to develop and implement a process that allows a ‘passer-by’ to alert others positioned to investigate further.
Until such time, a passer-by with suspicions should listen to that personal moral compass and consider that if such a situation involved their loved one, a decision to report to law enforcement would not require a second thought.
When an Alzheimer’s patient has gone missing from their senior home care or assisted living facility, or is in treatment at home for memory care living, local news agencies are on the frontline of awareness. Be it print/television/radio/web, after the initial report news agencies can continue with a discussion of the disease as well as continue to report on the search efforts. Reporting and educating are tools a news agency can easily use to help.
Electronic tracking devices like the Tile Bluetooth are available to keep Alzheimer’s patients, their loved ones and their health care professionals connected. There are many such products and the benefits they bring are obvious. No Alzheimer patient should be without one. But they are a tool, not a solution.

Nothing replaces the need for vigilance.

Vigilance is key. Knowing the signs of distress an Alzheimer’s patient sends is key. Learning everything possible about safeguarding an Alzheimer’s patient’s life is key. Here are just two of the organizations that offer information to patients, families and health care providers:

Rely on sources such as these for guidance, but remember that nothing replaces the need for vigilance.
Please be on the watch for Mr. Harold Cantrell
Mr. Cantrell, the Alzheimer’s patient who walked out of his assisted living facility and disappeared on July 6, is still the subject of a search being conducted by the Daytona Beach Police Department.  Stay tuned in to his situation and stay alert to any clues. Any information that seems relevant should be reported immediately. Phone 9-1-1.

Leave a Reply