Friday, May 4, 2007

Help for Families with Lost Loved Ones

My Aunt Eunice had Alzheimer's Disease. She spent the last ten years of her life in a downward spiral, increasingly lost within her own mind. She lived in a nursing facility and wanted more than anything to go back to her little house by the pond. I'll never forget the panic in my mother eyes when she answered the phone to find that Aunt Eunice had, again, wandered away (escaped) from the the nursing home. Luckily for our family, Aunt Eunice was always found within a few hours and never very far from the home but there was always a feeling of terror and dread that this would be the time we would discover her dead on the side of the road.

For those who live in Clark County, Nevada, I'm happy to tell you there is an organization that can help if your loved one is lost. The Nevada Center for Lost Loved Ones specializes in finding memory-care elders who've lost their way. They fill in the 72-hour window created between the time the person goes missing and the police will begin investigating.

Frank Mahoney, the founder of the Nevada Center for Lost Loved Ones, says that these hours are crucial to finding the elderly. Most recoveries are made during this time and the people are generally found within a few miles from where they disappeared. The key is quick action.

He has at his disposal helicopters, dog handlers, ATV's, and volunteers to immediatly being searching for a missing adult. Time is of the essence because most of these elders need medication or no longer remember how to keep themselves safe from harm or the elements. Now that summer is here the heat is a major concern in these cases.

The Center will also help look for teenagers and other missing people but focuses its efforts on Alzheimer patients. Since they opened their doors this past March, Mahoney says they've worked on twelve cases and recovered four people. These cases are not easy. They take diligent, continuous effort but the pay-off is immeasurable.

One of their recoveries was a teen runaway. They flooded her friends with phone calls and by night she was found.

The Nevada Center for Lost Loved Ones is doing important work, filling in the gaps and helping the police department with an overwhelming job. Thanks to them, more families will be happy and relieved to see their loved ones safe again. As a teenager, I remember hugging my aunt and asking her never to walk off again. She'd pat me on the back and smile. I knew she didn't really understand anymore.

It's good to know that there are people like Frank and his crew who are willing to rush to the aid of families like mine. Right now they are operating on, in Frank's words, "A prayer and a whisper." Please call the Las Vegas Metro Police Department for contact information if you'd like to make a donation or volunteer services or time to Frank Mahoney and The Nevada Center for Lost Loved Ones. Someone's grandparent, mother or father could be saved because of your involvement.

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