Number of elders in Utah with dementia to increase by 40 percent over seven years

6 in 10 dementia patients will wander off at some point, experts say

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) - Almost weekly, cases of missing or endangered persons with dementia pop up in the news, and sometimes, there is no happy resolution. 

Luckily for a family in South Ogden Thursday, Walter Leodolter, who disappeared Wednesday, was found safe. The family of Nick Kapos, who wandered off last September, wasn't so fortunate. Kapos' body was discovered in the water in the Millcreek area days after he disappeared. 

Utah currently has more than 30,000 people who suffer from Alzheimer's or some form of dementia, and with the baby boomer population aging, that number is projected to increase to 42,000 by 2024. 

Six in 10 elderly people with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease will wander off at some point, according to statistics from the Alzheimer's Association of Utah. 

"It's key to put a plan together, put a strategy together before that starts to happen," said Jeremy Cunningham, communications director for the Utah chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. "The reality is, it probably will."

So who is at risk for wandering? The Alzheimer's Association says anyone with Alzheimer's or dementia can become confused about their location at any stage of the disease. 

Loved ones of patients with dementia should call 888-572-8566 if they know someone who returns from a regular walk or drive later than usual, forgets how to get to familiar places, tries or wants to go home even when at home, or paces and makes repetitive movements. 

Experts said you should call police immediately if your loved one with dementia goes missing.

As for a plan of action, Cunningham said it's effective to get neighbors to keep an eye out for a loved one who may wander off.

Officials with Utah's Adult and Aging Division recommends contact cards the person suffering from dementia can carry with them in case they get lost. GPS tracking bracelets are also effective, according to Afton January, spokesperson for the state's Adult and Aging Division. 

You can also visit alz.org/safety if you'd like to know more about resources available in your area. 

 


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