How to provide help to people wandering with dementia

- Two men with dementia who recently went missing in the D.C. area were found dead this week. Although their cases are unrelated, the circumstances surrounding their disappearances have ignited new concerns about what to do when someone encounters a wandering person with a mental illness.

In Maryland, 65-year-old Daniel DeHaven reportedly wandered away from his wife at a Costco parking lot in Beltsville last week. On Tuesday, his body was found in a wooded area near BWI Airport.

Meanwhile, 81-year-old Delmar Mosley was last seen in a Northeast D.C. neighborhood on Tuesday. He was tragically found dead in a vehicle in the parking lot at Westfield Wheaton Mall the following day.

Their deaths have prompted law enforcement to review encounters with people with dementia.

“We actually attended a seminar [Wednesday] night presented by the Alzheimer’s Association,” said First Sgt. Michelle Gibbons of the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office. “Basically a lot of times, folks like that are very confused. They might be scared, they may not be aware of their surroundings or what's going on around them. The best thing to do is just talk to them in a slow manner, reassure them that they are safe, and obviously we want to try to get help to them as soon as possible.”

The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is the first in the D.C. region to offer Project Lifesaver. Participants wear a personalized bracelet that emits a constant tracking signal. The program helps locate people with Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome, autism and other related disorders.

In the cases involving DeHaven and Mosley, it may have helped. Both men were missing for days before being discovered deceased.

“I think it's a program that everybody should have just to help keep the community safe in terms of the folks who might have a disease or an issue that would require them to wander and then obviously try to get them home as fast as we can,” said Gibbons.

A reported six in ten people with dementia will wander. The Alzheimer's Association says people with dementia may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a wallet and paying bills.

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