Nov 19, 2008

Missing man with Alzheimer's travels to Mexico

I often get asked if my mother wanders. This is not a problem so far. However, wandering is a big problem for many Alzheimer's caregivers.

Missing man with Alzheimer's travels to Mexico
One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer's and dementia is wandering or getting lost. Spouses and children should pay careful attention when their loved one gets lost while driving. Many times they will conclude the person is getting old. What they should do is alert their family physician to the problem and ask for a check up by a memory specialist.

It is not unusual for family members to ignore suspicious behavior in older persons. Let's face it, the majority of us have little experience with dementia and when it strikes we get caught off guard. However, the sooner you get the memory problem diagnosed and get a treatment in place the better the likely outcome.

The man in this story was going to Kansas and ended up in Mexico. This comment caught my attention.

Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said family members didn't think his dementia was as serious.

I want to make it clear that I am not being critical of this family. The stories of similar situations with Alzheimer's caregivers are common.


Missing man with Alzheimer's travels to Mexico

A man who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease wandered into Mexico twice before he was found about 400 miles from the Texas border on Sunday, officials said.

Philip Orvan Kneifl, 67, was returned safely to his Victoria home Tuesday morning, not knowing he had traveled to Mexico, officials said.

Family members told investigators Kneifl called his sister Deanna Crawford on Nov. 12, to tell her he planned to visit her Kansas home.

Kneifl's wife, Martha Kneifl, was on a church mission trip in Galveston, Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said.

"They really didn't think his dementia was as serious," O'Connor said in a story for Tuesday's online edition of the Victoria Advocate.

Kneifl left his home Thursday and headed to Austin, credit card purchases show. Friday, he entered Mexico twice at Laredo.

Kneifl's wife reported him missing Friday morning. The sheriff's office contacted state officials and issued a Silver Alert on Friday.

Details of Kneifl's journey from then on are sketchy, until Sunday morning when villagers in rural Zacatecas, Mexico found him wandering through town.

"This small community pretty much adopted him," Investigator Melissa Rendon said.

Residents fed him coffee and cookies and kept him calm, she said.

Rendon, who is bilingual, spoke with villagers in Zacatecas and Mexican authorities. Rendon organized a flight from Zacatecas to Mexico City, where Kneifl met his son for a return flight to San Antonio.

Department of Homeland Security officers helped clear Kneifl for takeoff on Mexicana Airlines, O'Connor said. He said the airline and customs officials were reluctant to let Kneifl onto a plane without a passport.

"It wasn't until we saw him coming toward the gate we took a big breath" of relief, Rendon said.

He did not realize he had traveled to Mexico, O'Connor said.

Also see:
Dealing with Difficult Behavior Caused By Alzheimer's


Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room