Families dealing with Alzheimer's should prepare before loved one wanders off

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Imagine the panic of looking at faces, praying that one belongs to your loved one who's missing. It can happen, often, to those looking after a person with dementia.

"We had one a little less than a week ago," said Glendale police Sgt. Brent Coombs. "I would say it's a few times a month, at least, that we have a person go missing and then we find out they're suffering from that kind of disease."

Glendale police said with these calls becoming more frequent, the International Association of Chiefs of Police are asking caretakers to prepare now for if and when their loved one goes missing.

The campaign calls for having a current digital picture, knowing their medications, noting places they like to visit and using some kind of identifying bracelet or tracking device.

"It's a simple phone call and it's a reuniting where if they weren't wearing that kind of identification, they might wander farther," Coombs said.

At the Arizona's Alzheimer's Association, they agree, saying a bracelet with info and numbers increases the chance of a safe return.

"This is a bracelet again not only identifying them, but whom to contact," said Program Director Phil Carll.

Also, a watch or other device with tracking software can warn a family of anyone starting to wander.

"The GPS is in place on the person with dementia and a zone is set up, a safety zone," Crll said. "Once they go beyond that zone again the family is alerted."

This can save precious time when it really counts in a frantic search for a family member.