System successful in finding lost adults

Chris Thelen/Staff
Medic Alerts shown Friday January 9, 2009.

A program geared toward ensuring a safe return for missing disabled adults is proving successful throughout Georgia, according to local and state officials.

Mattie's Call, an emergency alert system, has garnered a safe return for 70 of the 71 calls issued since its inception in 2006, said John Bankhead, the spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

The alert system, similar to the Amber Alert, broadcasts the missing person's information to statewide law enforcement, convenience stores and other businesses via e-mail, phone and text messages, he said.

"We know it's had an impact," Mr. Bankhead said.

Georgia legislators made Mattie's Call a law after the 2004 death of Mattie Moore, an Atlanta woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease. She was found dead eight months after wandering off from her home.

Richmond County has not had to issue a Mattie's Call, but the sheriff's office has helped find Alzheimer's patients and other disabled adults, said Investigator Paul Evans, the head of the missing persons unit.

"There is a certain fear there with those patients, because they get lost near woods and water," he said. "We just advise families not to wait. The longer they're missing, the longer it takes to find them."

Kathy Tuckey can relate to the devastation of a loved one disappearing. In 2001, her mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer's, wandered away from their home. She was later found unharmed in a wooded area near their home.

"I had no idea she was in the wandering stage of her disease, but she was gone," Mrs. Tuckey said. "When we found her, she had no idea what had happened."

Mrs. Tuckey, the programs director of the local Alzheimer's Association chapter, said her goal is to raise awareness about Mattie's Call and the effects Alzheimer's can have on a family member.

If an Alzheimer's patient isn't found within the first 24 hours, there's less than a 50 percent chance he or she will be found alive, Mrs. Tuckey said.

"It really brings immediacy to the fact that the person is missing," she said. "There's always that risk that a loved one will some way make it through that door."

The Alzheimer's Association issues Safe Return bracelets and pendants for those who now or might eventually wander because of Alzheimer's disease, Mrs. Tuckey said. Contact information that will help police find them is engraved on the jewelry.

"The incidents of wandering will increase over time," Mrs. Tuckey said. "It will be more evident that Mattie's Call and what we're doing is a must."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

SAFE RETURN

If you would like to enroll in the Safe Return program and receive a Medic Alert bracelet or pendant, contact Kathy Tuckey at (706) 731-9060, ext. 4432.[CAPTION]


FACTS ABOUT ALZHEIMER'S

- Six in 10 Alzheimer's patients will wander.

- In 2008, an estimated 5.2 million Americans were living with Alzheimer's. That number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050.

- Seventy percent of Alzheimer's patients are cared for at their home.

Source: Alzheimer's Association, Georgia Chapter


Who is Mattie?

Mattie Moore was an Atlanta woman with Alzheimer's disease who went missing in 2004. Eight months after her disappearance, she was found dead about 500 yards from her home. Elderly advocates pushed for the Mattie's Call legislation after her death.