My mother is a spry, effervescent woman with an adventurous spirit. She also has frontotemporal dementia.
If you're at all familiar with this insidious disease, you'll know that those who suffer incur irreversible loss. In addition to executive function, they also experience loss of certain behavioral traits, and eventually speech.
Last month, my family and I had a three-hour loss as my mother slipped through the aisles at her local Shop Rite, away from my father, and out the front door. As my father frantically surveyed the area, my mother ventured out into a world made much more dangerous by her disease.
He reported her missing at two local police stations. Missing person protocols typically don't begin until someone is gone for 24 hours. But the search is fast-tracked for dementia patients. They snapped into action and immediately deployed a team that included a sheriff's department, a dozen police, dogs, and a helicopter.
I was an hour's drive away and spent the entire ride contemplating the worst, fully aware that we were in a race against time. A race against the dark. By pure luck and the grace of God, an officer just coming on duty noticed a woman in a red jacket standing alone in a crowded local park. He quickly looked at my mother's driver's license photo, and made the connection.
An EMT and a hospital visit followed to investigate what may have occurred during those lost three hours. She may have had a fall, possibly hit her head, broken a bone, or eaten something inedible off the ground. Incredibly, she only had a small scratch on her shin, proving once again that my mother can be resilient even in the wake of what could have been her greatest harm.
After returning home, I researched GPS devices and found an effective option. But it gave me pause. Placing a tracking device on my mother seemed more like an invasion of privacy than a precaution. Unfortunately, we all must take compromising measures to insure the safety of those that suffer with brain maladies. And my family couldn't and wouldn't risk my mother disappearing again.
I implore any family that has a member with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia to purchase a reliable tracking device; one that gives multiple people access to its service. The one I purchased also alerts us to any falls, and even allows for geofencing a chosen area with alerts if my mother moves beyond the preset boundaries.
On this Mother's Day, please remember that two-thirds of people with Alzheimer's and related dementias are women—a strikingly high number of mothers like mine are affected. And please don't forget to give to the ADDF in support of its tireless mission to make certain that fewer minds and fewer people will be lost in the future.
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Adam Rowe is a 20-year media sales and marketing professional who has held positions at Telerep, Viacom, Spectrum, and AOL/Time Warner. He is currently Vice President, Local-National Spot Sales for ION Media.