The following is a true story about a family dealing with Alzheimer’s/dementia with a loved one. Cliff Whalin, director of marketing at Wesley Manor, interviewed Donna–the daughter of a gentleman who needed memory care.

Two days before Christmas I received a call from Donna, whose father Ken was living at home with dementia. She asked for information about the Memory Care Center at Wesley Manor. Like so many families, these folks were planning to review the material and decide where to move her dad at the first of the year. When I followed up with her the week after Christmas she sadly told me our services would no longer be needed—her dad had died unexpectedly. What struck me were the circumstances behind his untimely death.

Donna told me that on Christmas day her dad had wandered away from home. The family frantically searched for him most of the day. Several hours later they found him “lying in a mud puddle” with hypothermia. After a few days in the hospital, he couldn’t recover.

This family certainly had good intentions for Ken, and knew they needed to move him into a secure retirement community soon. Unfortunately, they just didn’t know how urgent the situation was until it was too late. “After consulting with Dad’s doctors (who told us we should be looking into nursing homes in the future and that there wasn’t any rush), I avoided my gut instinct to find help somewhere,” Donna said. “Facing the reality of Alzheimer’s/dementia was something I feared, if only I had asked questions and followed my instincts he might still be here today.”

I couldn’t help but wonder what if he had just moved a week earlier. This Christmas tragedy could have been avoided. He would still be alive and have several more years of quality living under the loving security of our staff. Perhaps he would have enjoyed our daily activities and social gatherings. Maybe he would have even made some new friends with fellow residents and staff members. His family would have enjoyed seeing him over lunch or maybe at one of our worship services. He may have liked some of the old hymns or even Karaoke.

Then I thought about my own mom and dad. The horror of finding one of them lying out in the cold on Christmas day is unimaginable to me. How heart-wrenching this scenario would be for any family. How often this kind of situation unfolds with families across the country every day. Although this story had a sad and tragic ending, it also inspired me about the work we do every day at Wesley Manor. It reminded me that we not only provide a nice place for seniors to live–we are also saving lives by removing them from potentially life-threatening situations.

If someone you love is living at home alone, or needs more care than friends or family can adequately provide, don’t put it off any longer. NOW is the time to take action. “Please, for your loved ones sake, Do Not be AFRAID of what you don’t understand,” Donna added emphatically. “Ask questions. Follow your gut instincts. Get help for your loved ones. It’s what you owe them.”