We’re sad to report that the body of 87-year-old missing Perth man, Alexander Henderson, has been found at Whitfords Beach, not far from his home.
Mr Henderson, who had severe dementia and hearing loss, went missing from his home in the Perth suburb of Hillarys last Thursday and had not been seen since, despite extensive searching in the area.
His family issued a plea to the public for help in the search, and said they were deeply concerned about his wellbeing. Now their gravest fears have been realised, with a member of the official search party locating the body on Wednesday.
The family of course are devastated by the news.
Superintendent Scott Warner said, “Mr Henderson’s family are understandably extremely upset by the discovery, and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”
“This is another tragic example of the challenges that families face when dealing with a family member who suffers from dementia,” he said.
There will be an investigation into Mr Henderson’s death, and police will prepare a report for the coroner.
Sadly, it is not an uncommon occurrence for a person who is living with dementia to leave their home, and continue walking, inadvertently becoming lost – and potentially putting themselves in grave danger. Many do not survive the experience.
In June this year, Ian Collett, who had dementia, left his Canning Vale home in Perth, and was found deceased by the side of a highway 17 days later.
And in October last year, 79-year-old Anne Cameron, who had dementia, was attacked by crocodiles after she left her nursing home and walked into dense bushland, becoming lost.
How can we ensure that people who are living with dementia remain safe, even if they do have a tendency to walk about?
While we must respect the dignity of people living with dementia, and acknowledge that they may want to accept a degree of risk, and continue making choices about their lives, we must also ensure they are safe.
To prevent someone with dementia leaving their home unaccompanied and putting themselves in harm’s way, there are a number of things you can do.
If you see an older person who appears confused, frightened or lost, approach them and speak to them in a reassuring way. Ask them if there’s someone you can call who can help them. If not, you can call the police.
Wait with the person until the police arrive, if possible in a quiet place, away from noise and bright lights.