An eighty-year-old man from Fort Myers with Alzheimer's disease was found wandering alone at the airport in Denver a few months ago, according to TV station 9News in Denver. The station reported that a United Airlines supervisor found the man confused and alone with his small dog. When a United employee looked up the woman who checked him into his flight, they ended up talking to his daughter in Fort Myers.
His daughter told the United employee she was "done with her father," and did not want to be contacted again, according to a police report.
Police determined that the man's daughter had put him on a one-way flight to Denver, intending for his estranged wife to pick him up and care for him. When they tracked down his wife, she refused to pick her husband, according to the police report. Officers were left with no choice but to call an ambulance, which took him to a nearby hospital.
"Unfortunately, folks (with Alzheimer's disease) do sometimes end up in emergency rooms," said Jessica MacDonald, a clinical social worker with the Alvin Dubin Alzheimer's Resource Center in Fort Myers.
MacDonald said that while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's can be overwhelming, assistance is available.
"Talking with families before they burn out can help," she said. "So we can talk about programs in the area, particularly through the Area Agency on Aging, to help people plan for some of that assistance. But that planning part is key, because there's not a lot of crisis intervention."
She said that programs for Alzheimer's patients can be expensive, so it's important for families to reach out for help as early as possible to see if they qualify for any grants or financial assistance.
"Education and support are key," MacDonald said. "It's so much better than waiting for a crisis to happen."