On a cold December night, I was falling asleep and heard a sound outside the window. It sounded like children playing but I was staying at my mom’s house. She lives in a 55+ community so there are not a lot of kids. Maybe it was someone’s grandkids? I climbed out of bed, cracked the window, and let the cold air in.
“Help, help me!”
I ran to the kitchen where my 78-year-old mother was still awake. “Mom, I think someone’s yelling for help.”
My mom grabbed the phone and called 9-1-1. I grabbed my coat and headed out the front door. As I got closer, I could see it was an elderly man, bleeding profusely and perched on his hands and knees like a cat. He had nothing on but a pair of boxer shorts. It was 30 degrees outside!
I threw my coat over him and said, “I’ll be right back.” I ran to my mom’s house and grabbed every blanket I could find and rushed back to the man. I swaddled him in blankets and cradled him to the ground. He could not stop shivering. Was it the loss of blood? Was it the freezing temperatures? Who knew how long he had been outside?!
My mom joined us to say she had the police and first-aid on their way. The man kept saying his name but did not know any other information. Where did he live? Was he living alone? Who else should we call? What was he doing outside with barely anything on at midnight? He kept repeating, “My name is Bill.”
Fortunately, despite Bill’s face being covered in blood, my mom recognized him. “This is Bill, Margaret’s husband. He has dementia!” He is the husband of a friend of hers who lived about a mile down the road and had clearly eloped.
When someone with dementia leaves the safety of their home, it is referred to as an elopement. According to mmLearn (a free online video training and education resource for caregivers of older adults), about 34,000 individuals with a form of cognitive loss elope, creating serious health risks.
Within 20 minutes, the police and ambulance arrived. As they were administering his care, my mom was coordinating with her friend and Bill’s wife. She, of course, was distraught. “How did he get out? I locked the door. It’s all my fault.”
Fortunately, Bill recovered from the frigid night. But what would’ve happened if I hadn’t heard him? Would anyone have found him in time? Would Margaret ever forgive herself?
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than six million Americans are living with a form of dementia, and it will take the lives of one in three seniors. This number is expected to rise due to demographics and longer lifespans.
Every three seconds someone in the world succumbs to dementia. This terrible disease cripples not only the person with it but the family that tries to help provide care. There are so many facets of providing care: hands-on care, medical care, and loving attention. There is also the necessary care over the finances and administration — as this population is vulnerable to financial exploitation and innocent mistakes.
At Kincern, we are focused on helping caregivers with their financial and administrative responsibilities. We offer services and solutions to make this part of caregiving easier so that families can get back to more important things instead of digging through paperwork. By cutting the amount of time it takes to put together the puzzle pieces of your loved one’s financial picture, you can get back to focusing on quality time together.
Editor’s Note: For financial caregivers, proactivity is key for protecting elderly parents’ finances, especially when there is memory loss or signs of dementia. Planning ahead, developing a checklist, and working through it is a wise investment of time that brings peace of mind for the entire family. Read our blog post “Protecting elderly parents’ finances: what’s next when mom or dad show signs of dementia?” to learn more.