GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A Greensboro family is relieved tonight now that their father is home, alive and safe, after wandering from his house around 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Ralph Douglas Moore, 79, suffers from dementia. His son said he is a retired Command Sergeant Major and served in the military for more than twenty years.
"It was very traumatic and at the same time I know God had his hands on my father," said Randy Moore, calling the police officer's efforts Tuesday "superb."
Officers and canine searched Moore's neighborhood for about three hours, eventually finding him in a wooded area behind his house. It appeared he had wandered from home and fallen in the vegetation.
"This is incredible because his condition looked good, he was talking. I'm sure he was a little frightened, but it was the best case scenario," said Lt. Jill Gladieaux.
Last year Greensboro police investigated 35 cases involving people over the age of 55 reported missing. So far this year, they've had 19. Almost half involved are Silver Alerts, which are issued specifically for adults at some type of risk, including dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
Scott Herrick with the Alzheimer's Association says caring for someone with cognitive illness can be a full-time job.
"They can get confused and think the mailman had to tell them something, walk out the street to find the mailman, all the sudden they're a quarter-mile down the road and they're lost," he explained.
Herrick added, "I always use the example that if someone can get from their kitchen to their mailbox, you have to assume even if they've never shown an inclination to wander that at some point in time they will. Statistics bare out that about 6 percent do wander at some point."
He encourages families to keep doors and windows locked and make sure a caretaker is home as much as possible. He also suggests investing in alarms or door chimes and making sure patients get as much exercise as possible during the day.
He pointed out that in Moore's case, having a caretaker at home who had a close-up, recent photo and knew exactly what he was wearing likely helped save his life.
For more information for caregivers, visit www.alz.org.