My mother managed to disappear in the five seconds it took for my father to go into the closet to get the dog food. She’d been resting, and he thought she was asleep. Just like in those cartoons when one character sneaks out behind the back of the other, she was gone. Out the door and down the elevator to the parking garage. We found her an hour later, thanks to the help of kindly neighbors and the police.
I know that this is one of the concerns of living with an Alzheimer’s patient, the wandering off, but this is the first time we’ve had to encounter it. I think my father aged by five years in that one hour. However, the adventure did help me review several important lessons to remember when dealing with a missing person.
- Don’t panic. Okay, an obvious one for many occasions, but still, important to mention. Adrenaline certainly helps us run faster, but it doesn’t help us brainstorm and think outside the box. When faced with an uncertain, urgent situation, we first need to take a deep breath, and think, “What are my options?”
- Collect your allies. The first thing I did after my father called me was to call my husband. A) because he’s a very capable man, and B) because he was a lot closer to the scene than I was. I also called friends we had in the area, and my sister called my niece who rushed back to the area to be helpful.
- Call the police. Unlike all the T.V. shows, you don’t have to wait 48 hours for someone to not be found to be declared ‘missing’. Especially in Israel, when you can’t locate someone who is supposed to be somewhere else, you can call the police, soon. As soon as we ascertained my mother wasn’t in the apartment or the hallways, I called the police. I was so impressed with their response. They were respectful, very responsive, and within 15 minutes there was a unit at my parents’ apartment. In fact, every time I’ve called the police, 100, to report an accident or a brush fire on the road, I have always been impressed with their professionalism and quick response time.
- Thank those who help. When all is said and done, it’s important to remember to say thank you. Sometimes we’re so caught up in the aftermath of the event, or the stress relief, that we forget. No problem, you can always thank them a day, a week, even a year later. Trust me, it makes a difference.
We learned a few things from losing my mother that day. The need to lock the front door at all times, the need for an ID bracelet and the need to review our communication strategies. But I hope not to repeat that hour anytime soon.
Do you know how to respond if someone you love goes missing? Let us know.