Emerging Trends: Police Response to Missing Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia

Earlier this year, all of our staff went through an internal training process to educate us on the increasing impact on police of dealing with reports of missing Alzheimer’s disease patients.  At last year’s International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, the IACP kicked off a multi stage educational program for police nationally to call our attention to this important issue.

With more than 5 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease and approximately 500,000 new cases of this disease emerging each year, projections pronounce that there could be as many as 16 million Americans that will have Alzheimer’s by 2050. To help law enforcement protect this special population, IACP’s Alzheimer’s Initiatives program is committed to helping first responders improve their knowledge and skills to safeguard this special population.

You read the paper and see the news, you see the recurring reports of older folks who wander away from home and their caregivers.  Call takers and responding officers need to know what questions to ask family members and caregivers that can help us find the person quickly – where and how to look.  It is also common for police to make a traffic stop on an older driver who is confused about where they are and where they are going.

Missing persons with AD/D present challenges to law enforcement including:

•   They may not take a coherent path—searchers must redirect thinking of likely or logical routes and appropriately modify traditional missing persons’ protocol.

•   They often try to seclude themselves in natural areas, such as lakes, ponds, brush, or woods, early in the event. Once secluded, they are likely to remain in that location or nearby.

•   They likely will not respond to anyone calling for them, ask for help, or understand that they are the subject of a search.

•   In their broken logic, lost AD/D persons may seek to evade searchers if they suffer from paranoia or delusions, think they are “in trouble,” know they are doing something that is prohibited, or are simply scared of their unexpected surroundings.

Effectively responding to missing persons of this special population is a high priority to us.  We hope you won’t need us but we’ll be ready if you do.

You can find more information here:  http://www.alz.org/