Missing woman's story bring dementia care into spotlight

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PHOENIX - An autopsy will determine what killed an elderly woman found dead in rural Arizona.

Search crews found Mary Lou Webb's body and her car yesterday, about thirty miles east of the I-17, north of the Valley.

Webb,72, suffered from dementia.

She had been missing since last Thursday, when family members say she made a wrong turn driving home.

Yavapai County investigators say Webb's car was found in a ditch with a broken window, but there were no obvious signs of foul play.

An autopsy will be conducted in the next day or two to determine the cause of death and a time frame, but no matter what happened to Mary Lou Webb, family members know the first problem was her illness.

How dangerous dementia can be?

Anybody who’s had to deal with a loved one with dementia understands how tough, how sad it can be.
Watching them slowly forget things or get confused over what's going on.

People can come to the Banner Alzheimer's Institute, not just the patient, but it's recommended the whole family and at the early stages of dementia.

According to family, Webb suffered from dementia, which is most likely why she ended up in the remote area of the Tonto National Forest after driving miles upon miles of bumpy dirt roads.

“Don't expect the same type of judgment and ability to reason by someone who has this type of impairment as you would with someone who is healthy,” said Dr. Anna Burke at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

Doctor Burke is an expert in dementia.

Hearing Webb just kept driving and driving even when the road turned to dirt doesn't surprise her.

“People are able to remember, at least with early stages of dementia, what happened ten years ago, because that's already stored, however, new information coming in is not stored and hence is lost very easily,” Dr. Burke said.

Doctor Burke said dealing with a loved one with dementia can be frustrating and painful. Mary Lou's daughter Stacey said they'd get into fights when she tried to take her mom's keys away. Doctor Burke said that's very common. 

Doctor Burke said anybody can get it and there's no cure, the best thing to do she said is to catch it early and there's medication that can help slow it down.