Keeping Alzheimer’s Victims Safe Requires Cunning And Persistence From Family Members

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No one paid attention to the 83-year-old man driving down Interstate 40 Tuesday night.

An empty tank of gas ended Nathan Graham's 200-mile odyssey on a trip to least, nowhere he could remember, because he has Alzheimer's disease.

His niece, Ronie Stickkelman, and her mom, Sheryl Ibach, drove to Camden Wednesday and brought him home.

He found the car keys they hid from him and sneaked out of the house.

"You wonder what did he do? Did he get out? Did he sit on the ground and take a break for a while? There are so many pieces that we'll never know."

Their story had a happy ending, but so many people with Alzheimer's vanish.

They typically die from exposure or other situations they can't find their way out of.

If they are not found within 24 hours, statistics tell us that 50 percent will die or be seriously injured.

Ruthann Shelton with Alzheimer's Day Services advises family members to hide the car keys, and to make up stories like the car is broken. Also, get a doctor to write a note that says the person can't drive.

It took six months to solve the disappearance of 86-year-old Elizabeth Ferguson from the Berclair area. She drove away from her house and vanished.

After months of searching, her body was found near her car off a dirt road in southwest Memphis.

"You can never get ahead of it. You can never anticipate what the next situation is going to bring, the next road they are going to go down," Stikkelman said. "As soon as you start to think, 'OK, I've got all my list checked off and are able to take care of them,' something like this happens."