Jen PIlgreen, Deseret News
MILLCREEK — A 69-year-old man with Alzheimer’s was found safe Sunday after being reported missing the day before.
Derald Nielson, of Millcreek, has an advanced stage of the disease and is known to wander away from home.
Nielson’s story hit close to home for families in Utah caring for loved ones with the same disease.
Each day is unpredictable for Beverly Blasongame, who cares for her husband of 58 years. At 77, Don Blasongame has late-stage Alzheimer’s. He was diagnosed three years ago.
“I pray every day, ‘Let me be kind, loving and patient," the West Bountiful resident said. “I’m not a worrier. I just take it one day at a time."
She said the disease has taken away his ability to speak and to understand. Unlike other patients, Don can usually find his way home. But he can get lost in unfamiliar places. Beverly said she had to call police when he disappeared on a trip to St. George.
Her husband carries a cellphone, which has a locator app called Life360, which made it easier to find him.
“They had my cellphone, and they just pulled it up on here and it showed where he was,” she said.
He also wears a MedicAlert bracelet with his information.
Amy Broderick’s husband, Noel, has early onset Alzheimer’s dementia. He can’t be left alone.
“He’s basically like a 5-year-old, except a 5-year-old with not really any common sense,” the Bluffdale resident said.
Noel Broderick was diagnosed seven years ago, when he was 32. Amy said she knows how scary it was for the Nielson family not to know where Derald Nielson was.
“I really felt for his caregiver,” she said. “They must have been very, very concerned. It’s like your worst fear that you won’t be able to find them, or they’ll get hurt really bad, or someone will take advantage of them.”
These days, Amy is more of a parent than a wife. She helps her husband get dressed and eat meals.
“He constantly asks questions over and over again,” she said. “He is very unaware of his surroundings, so that can make him really agitated and frightened.”
She has to keep an eye on him at all times.
“I’ve had him wander off when I’ve gone to shower or something, and I come back I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh.'Because I’m thinking he’s watching a movie, and he’s down the street.”
Along with the MedicAlert bracelet, Blasongame signed up for the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program. If someone with dementia wanders or becomes lost, the caregiver can call an emergency response number 24 hours a day and a support network is activated, including law enforcement. Photos are sent out of the person, along with any medical information needed when emergency responders find the person.
There are 32,000 people in Utah diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. The majority of those with Alzheimer’s are 65 years old and older. Up to 5 percent of those have early onset Alzheimer's, which often appears some when someone is in their 40s or 50s.
The Utah chapter of the Alzheimer's Association offers care and support information for patients and caregivers at www.alz.org/utah/.
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