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Adult Female Dementia

Missing females with dementia

 

Statistics taken directly from Grampian Stats report 2007.

 

Summary of likely places found to being found and distance from last being seen. Followed by characteristics and further information on Dementia.

 

Missing on foot – likely places they will be found

59% of female dementia sufferers who wandered on foot were found walking in the street or a roadway of some kind. Others were located at the following places: 

  • Returned to the place missing from 
  • Doctors surgery or hospital
  • Their home address
  • Friend’s address 
  • Neighbour’s address
  • Relative’s address
  • At shops
  • Hiding within place of residence 
  • In a pub 

 

Missing on foot – time taken to locate. Cumulative percentage of cases

40%         1 hr 10 mins

50%         1 hr 15 mins

60%         2 hr 00 mins

70%         2 hr 30 mins

80%         3 hr 45 mins

90%         5 hr 30 mins

95%         8 hr 00 mins

99%         9 hr 20 mins

 

On foot - Distance from last seen to being found. Cumulative percentage of cases.

40%         300 m 

50%         700 m

60%         900 m

70%         1.2 km

80%         2.0 km

90%         3.7 km

95%         5.8 km

99%         12.0 km

Note

It is worthy of note that one female dementia sufferer walked 12 kilometres on foot. She followed a roadway and had no idea where she was or what she was doing. This was in a rural location and she left from a holiday home 

 

Missing and likely to use public transport – likely places they will be found

The majority were located: 

  • Walking in street or roadway 
  • Returned to place missing from 
  • Travelled to their home address 

A smaller percentage were found on public transport or turned up at police stations. It is also interesting to note that two of those who returned to the place they went missing from travelled distances of 45 and 62 kilometres respectively (measured to furthest known point travelled to). 

One woman who returned used a taxi and her furthest distance was three kilometres. 

 

Missing using public transport – time taken to locate. Cumulative percentage of cases

25%         1 hr 30 mins

50%         2 hr 10 mins

60%         2 hr 30 mins

70%         15 hr 30 mins

80%         35 hr 45 mins

90%         68 hr 30 mins

99%         69 hr 20 mins

 

Using Public transport. Distance from last seen to being found. Cumulative percentage of cases.

50%         5.8 km

60%         7.2 km

80%         24.0 km

90%         35.0 km

99%         44.0 km

 

What is dementia?

The term dementia describes a loss of mental ability severe enough to interfere with normal activities of daily living.
The condition most commonly associated with dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease, which is a degenerative disease affecting the brain. It is important to remember, that while anyone who suffers from Alzheimer’s can be said to have dementia the opposite does not apply (i.e., not everyone who suffers from dementia has Alzheimer’s disease). Examples of other diseases where dementia symptoms may be manifest are: 

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Picks Disease
  • Mini-strokes (Vascular Dementia)
  • Fluid on the brain (Hydrocephalus)
  • Korsakoff’s Syndrome and other alcohol related dementia Following brain injury 
  • As a result of a brain tumour AIDS related dementia. 

Regardless of which disease has specifically resulted in the dementia, the behaviour patterns displayed by sufferers are very similar. Consequently, search planners should not become unduly distracted by which underlying illness/disease has caused the dementia. The search strategies outlined in this section are generic to all. 

 

How it affects behaviour

People with dementia are at risk of wandering and getting lost because they are disorientated, restless, agitated and/or anxious. Once lost, they are in danger of injury and even death from falls, accidents, and exposure. The acute medical conditions associated with this illness compound the likelihood of serious negative outcomes. Disturbed sleep patterns can result in unexpected wandering at night. 

 

Why does this happen?

In their own mind they can believe they are looking for something (e.g., a familiar place, a familiar person, something to eat); or think they need to fulfil former obligations (e.g., work or child care). This results in goal-driven wandering which is industrious and purposeful, where the person is searching for something or someone such as a mother, home, place of work or a particular object. Others may engage in random wandering which can sometimes have no real purpose, or where they are attracted by something which initially takes their interest, but can become quickly distracted to another purpose or stimulus. 

 

Are there different severities of dementia?

While the medical profession classify dementia sufferers into one of three categories (mild, medium or severe), police search strategies are best based around a more simple classification of mild or severe. A mild sufferer is someone who is still generally capable of looking after themselves, even if they have people coming to give them help from time to time with certain things. In direct contrast, a severe sufferer is someone who is no longer capable of looking after themselves, they require full-time supervision or live-in help. 

 

How does it affect where they are likely to be found?

Fundamentally, severe dementia sufferers are most likely to
be found in locations indicative of random wandering. This is the case regardless of whether they believe their motivation for wandering is random or goal-driven (e.g., I’m going to work) as they will suffer a high degree of delusion. 

However, for milder dementia sufferers, the types of locations in which they are likely to be found may be directly dependent upon their personal motivation for wandering. While some may engage in random wandering, milder suffers typically engage in more goal-driven wandering and are more likely to use a car or public transport to achieve their desired goal. 

It is a fundamental challenge for search advisors to determine which particular goal the missing person might be heading for. A good search strategy may be to focus on several possible goals simultaneously. 

 

What are the search implications?

In line with the fact that a mild dementia sufferer can largely still look after themselves at home, they are also still capable of interacting with the outside world. Consequently, in comparison to severe dementia sufferers, they are more likely to: 

Make use of public transport Travel further distances Some even use cars 

It is not uncommon for a mild dementia sufferer to park their car to go shopping, then completely forget where the car is parked. They can also be found sitting in their car some distance from their home address with no idea how they got there. 

If they are in care, they are most likely to try and return to their home address. They may also be found at previous home addresses or previous places of employment. Some males have even been known to turn up in local pubs having a drink. Many of the goal-driven individuals in this group are quite capable of achieving their goals. 

In line with the fact that a mild dementia sufferer can largely still look after themselves at home, they are also still capable of interacting with the outside world. Consequently, in comparison to severe dementia sufferers, they are more likely to: 

Make use of public transport Travel further distances Some even use cars 

It is not uncommon for a mild dementia sufferer to park their car to go shopping, then completely forget where the car is parked. They can also be found sitting in their car some distance from their home address with no idea how they got there. 

If they are in care, they are most likely to try and return to their home address. They may also be found at previous home addresses or previous places of employment. Some males have even been known to turn up in local pubs having a drink. Many of the goal-driven individuals in this group are quite capable of achieving their goals. 

 

Are there any other specific search considerations?

Both mild and severe sufferers, who end up walking away from roadways and tracks, have a tendency to be directed by natural barriers. If they come up against a fence, wall or thick hedge, for example, they are likely to follow the barrier in one direction or the other rather than go over it. Searchers should therefore take
a particular interest in all such structures, natural or man made. However, the missing person can attempt to cross these barriers if something specifically attracts them or they are goal-driven in a particular direction. 

Due to their often elderly/frail condition, many of those who attempt to cross fences or ditches become stuck or entangled. Searchers, particularly air support, should concentrate much of their effort on searching along these types of barriers. Search experience has shown that dementia sufferers who are strongly goal driven wanderers are often traced at locations which coincide with an invisible line drawn between the place missing from and the particular goal they are heading for. 

 

Previous history of wandering?

40% of females and 50% of males in this category were reported missing previously. 30% of both these groups had been missing on more than one occasion. It is, therefore, imperative that enquiry be made regarding the circumstances of any previous history of wandering and, specifically, the locations they were found at previously. 

 

Search strategy options

The following tables provide three vital pieces of information for the Search Advisor: 

1. A general indication of the time scales within which one could expect to locate a missing dementia sufferer 

2. Approximate search area sizes and associated location probabilities 

3. Likely places within the search area one would expect to locate the missing person.

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