A Fort Mill organization is bringing a system to parents and guardians that may make it easier to find missing children or those at risk, including elderly people with dementia.
For the elderly, especially those with cognitive loss, wandering from home or areas of care can happen, said Beth Sulkowski, regional spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Wandering is a very common problem with people who have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia," she said. “The first 24 hours are vital in locating the person and returning them to safety.”
The Fort Mill Area Moose Lodge hosted an event Sunday for community members to create an electronic ID for their children, parents and other family members.
The digital ID system records a person’s fingerprints and photographs and burns them to a CD or thumb drive for their parent or guardian to provide to law enforcement in the event their loved one goes missing, said Jane Medlin-Smith, a spokesperson with the Lodge. All personal data is erased from the computer after it is collected and burned to the CD.
There have been incidents of local people going missing.
A 74-year-old Lancaster man went missing from an adult care center in December 2016. Police later found his body. In July 2017, a 72-year-old Rock Hill man with early onset dementia was found safe in Aiken County after he was missing for about eight hours.
To provide the IDs, chapters of the Loyal Order of Moose, a fraternal service organization, partner with the Safe Surfin’ Foundation, Medlin-Smith said. The Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that aims to prevent children from becoming the victims of internet predators, provides the EZ child / Elderly ID kits and all necessary forms to the Moose lodges and chapters.
Safe Surfin’ was founded in 2000 by Sheriff Michael Brown and Robin Sundquist of the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia and partners with the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the foundation.
Every day, 2,000 children are reported missing and thousands of elderly wander off, according to Safe Surfin’.
Local mom Christina Benitez came Sunday to create an ID for her 7-year-old son Justin.
“It’s useful to have an ID at all times,” Benitez said.
Fort Mill resident Kathy Welch brought her 90-year-old mother to the event. She said the ID kit brings her peace of mind.
“When they get up in age, sometimes their mind gets forgetful and you just never know when something might happen,” she said. “It’s good to have the information on her.”
Sulkowski said six out of 10 people with dementia will wander at some point. She said it stems from the disorientation they are experiencing that may make them believe they should be somewhere else or want to go home.
Being restless, pacing or saying they need to go home or get somewhere are warning sings a person may wander, Sulkowski said. She said caregivers should let their local law enforcement know if they are caring for someone who might wander from home.
To learn more about the EZ child / EZ elderly kits, visit the Safe Surfin’ Foundation’s website or call 540-583-6520.
For more information on wandering safety, visit alz.org/safety.
For information on upcoming ID events, call the Fort Mill Moose Lodge at 803-547-4204.