Terry and Norma, married for 42 years, live in Brantford, a mid-sized city about an hour and a half from Toronto, Ontario.
When Norma was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011, Terry became his wife's sole caregiver. It's common for caregivers to feel an enormous sense of loss and grief as a loved one ‘slips away', and Terry was no different.
In mid-November of last year, Norma accompanied Terry, a colon cancer survivor, when he went to the hospital for his annual checkup.
While looking for change to pay the parking machine, Terry took his eyes off his wife for a few seconds. When he looked up, Norma was gone.
What followed was a harrowing experience to which almost every caregiver can relate.
Terry rushed outside to look for Norma, and then ran back into the hospital. No sign of her anywhere. Increasingly desperate, he got into his car and drove around the neighbourhood.
"I couldn't find her anywhere. I was panic-stricken. I almost had a heart attack."
He went back to the hospital, where nurses attempted to track her down. He contacted hospital security, who checked video footage, with no luck.
More than an hour after his ordeal began, the police were called in the hopes that they might have found her. To Terry's great relief, the local police did in fact have his beloved wife.
The story behind Norma's disappearance was pieced together shortly after husband and wife were joyfully reunited.
Rebecca, an occupational therapist at the Brantford hospital, was driving home after work. She saw Norma disoriented and wandering on a busy street. She approached Norma who, in addition to having Alzheimer's, is unable to communicate due to a condition called aphasia.
Fortunately, Rebecca didn't need Norma to speak.
She saw the distinctive MedicAlert® Safely Home® bracelet on Norma's wrist, with the words MedicAlert clearly visible on the front of the ID. Using the information on the back of the ID, Rebecca immediately called the MedicAlert 24/7 Emergency Hotline, and then the police. In the time that Norma disappeared, she had wandered some 12 blocks away from the hospital when she was discovered by Rebecca.
"It's a scary picture. Norma was wandering on a busy street. People drove by her, and didn't stop. Thankfully my neighbour was reached by MedicAlert and went and picked Norma up. Fortunately, nothing happened to her", says Terry.
We later learned that both Rebecca's grandparents had dementia and she's trained on how to approach people with dementia from her job. Rebecca has shared her experience on her social network and some responded that they never thought to check the bracelet. Not only Rebecca helped Norma to reunite with Terry, she has also helped to spread the word about the importance of having MedicAlert medical IDs!
Terry applauds the MedicAlert® Safely Home® Program for its commitment to those suffering from Alzheimer's or other cognitive diseases.
"My daughter recommended getting MedicAlert when her mom was first diagnosed. But you can't fully appreciate the service until something like this happens. Why wait for an emergency to take action?
Consider the person you care about and love. But think about your own peace of mind, as well." Terry says.