Utah families facing Alzheimer’s, dementia find ways to keep wandering loved ones safe

SALT LAKE CITY -- The numbers are staggering and they continue to grow. According to the Alzheimer’s Association Utah Chapter, 30,000 Utahns are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

By 2025, the estimate puts the number at 42,000.

“I can tell you about 60 percent of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia will wander,” said Kate Nederostek, Program Director for the local chapter.

Wandering from home can be a terrifying experience for loved ones and the person suffering the disease.

“The first things that pop into your head is, where could they be, what could have happened, they could be injured. They are probably frightened, they’re afraid, they don’t know how to get home and that’s your loved one,” Nederostek said.

Brenda Neilson has been living with that fear since her husband of 30 years, Dale, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2015.

“He has not ever wandered yet, but I think he will,” Neilson said.

She registered Dale for the MedicAlert and Safe Return program. It costs $62 for the first year and $35 for additional years.

Dale was given a medical alert bracelet with some basic contact information and a number tied to a database. If he is ever reported missing, the bracelet helps provide a link back to his loved ones.

“He would sometimes get lost in places that were familiar. He would go to the bathroom in a restaurant and he couldn’t find his way back,” Neilson said.

Other families are using technology. GPS and radio transmitter bracelets are available but they are more costly. Nederostek says there are a wide variety of options starting around $20 per month.

To learn more you can contact the Utah chapter, here.