Six in 10 people with Alzheimer's disease will wander, and a quick rescue is critical: 60 percent of those who wander, if not found within 24 hours, are going to die. But in Washington, government belt-tightening has hindered efforts to better equip local law enforcement to handle missing-persons cases involving dementia, InvestigateWest learned. A first-ever analysis of media reports, search-and-rescue mission reports, and interviews with law enforcement by InvestigateWest found that at least ten seniors have died as a direct result of wandering in the last five years. In that group is Samuel Counts, 71, a father of 10 and a retired Vietnam War veteran whose case fueled this story's narrative. The Spokane County Sheriff's Office waited six full days before enlisting a helicopter in the search, a delay that goes against search-and-rescue experts' guidelines when someone is endangered. Even as the number of people with Alzheimer's increases dramatically, no public record is routinely created in Washington when wandering is a contributing factor to death, and no state agency keeps a tally of these cases. Wandering behavior is predictable and training for law enforcement is available, but here in Washington, it takes a tragedy for anyone to pay attention.
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