Toddlers on Leashes, Adults Using EM Finders: What Happens When Someone You Love Gets Lost?

BlogHer Original Post

There was a time when I looked with disdain upon parents with their toddlers on leashes.  My mom said things about those families I wouldn’t even repeat.  But first-grader Etan Patz disappeared while I lived in New York.  And before Adam Walsh -- even before I had kids of my own -- I was petrified of those nameless dangers that hover over our children when they’re out of our reach.

What I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older, though, is that these small people are not the only ones we worry about.  Sure, a toddler wanders away from a family picnic.  But that same day, an elderly parent walks to the market and forgets how to get home.  An autistic adult misses a bus stop and can’t explain who she is or where she belongs.  So many of us have loved ones who really, ultimately, can’t fly solo.  Or at least, shouldn’t.   The Alzheimer's Association reports that 60 percent of people with dementia will wander away. Only 54 percent will survive if not found within 24 hours. For caregivers, these statistics are a nightmare of possibility.

How many of us are sandwich daughters, caught between weakening parents and growing children?  A quick BlogHer search for “aging parents” turns up at least 77 posts.  Try “sandwich generation” and you get over 40.  Oh – and autism – 589 at the first search.  We’re all here, struggling; loving our small children and our challenged youngsters and those aging parents and worrying about them all. 

ELDERLY WOMANS HANDS CANE CLOSE UP HANDS ON CANES

But unlike the war in Afghanistan or the floods in Pakistan, there’s a pretty good solution: a device that, if a loved one were missing -- well -- it would find them. (Yes, it’s kind of like lojack, but not entirely.)  It‘s not even that complicated.  The device looks like a wrist watch in a rubber casing.  If its wearer is lost, the caregiver calls 911 to start the location process, then calls EMFinders, the device people, to get the device activated.  The machine, on activation, calls the police, they follow the signal and the lost are found.  Can you imagine what that would mean?  These folks can:

My 89-year old mother has had dementia for 20 years. … she now needs round-the-clock care in a secured assisted living setting.  That means a locked facility where she can't wander away. Alzheimer’s and Caregiving: a Daughter’s Story of Love by Midlife Muse 

Someone from (autistic) Jack's school told me that Sam walks Jack to his line, makes sure he's facing the right direction, and then goes off to his own line. I'm a little bit afraid of the day that Jack refuses and Sam doesn't know what to do. I hope when that day comes that there is an adult nearby to help. Stimey at Stimeyland

I keep my parenting nightmares in a silver box in my head. I try not to open it, ever, because if I do, I tend to leave that nice place called "Reality" and slide quickly down into "Paralyzing Anxiety."

My worst fear, of all the fears, is that my daughter will be taken from me. I have to work constantly to ignore the possibility of kidnapping, because she is so often out of my grasp at daycare,  Rita Arens Will Your Child Be Kidnapped?

He could tell us that his name was Patrick and his father's name was Don. He told us his mother's name was "Mommy." He didn't know his last name. He didn't know whether he was visiting Cape May or lived there year round. He knew that his mother had a blue-and-white umbrella. We kept trying to get him to run back the way he came--there was no way his parents were a half mile down the beach--but he wouldn't turn so we jogged alongside him, asking the same questions, calling out to people to help us.  Melissa Ford  Lost Child at the Beach 

Sometimes our preconceptions – a leash on a toddler, a “lojack” watch on an Alzheimer’s sufferer – aren’t fair at all.  Like most things that help us with problems nobody wants to look at in the first place, they’re not elegant.  But when they make someone you love safer, they’re the most beautiful things in the world.

Cynthia Samuels, Partner Cobblestone Associates, LLP   Managing Editor, Causes, Care2 and Blog and Media Strategies and Content Development Online and on Television   Don’t Gel Too Soon

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