The family of 68-year-old Ernice Bivens is thankful. He was missing several days but was found at the Monroe shelter Tuesday afternoon, according to his family.
Bivens has worked his whole life. Mostly in manufacturing or at a poultry plant. Now he’s retired, living with family and struggling with complications that come with age.
“I’m worried,” said his daughter-in-law Shirley Bivens when he was still missing. She lives next door to him on Idlewild Trail in Indian Trial. She said growing older has brought physical and mental challenges to Bivens. His family said he lives with dementia and manages diabetes.
“Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought this would happen this close to me,” said Bivens.
She’s not alone.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety issued a Silver Alert in the hope of finding him safely. In 2014 there were 358 Silver Alerts for people who had gone missing with dementia or a cognitive impairment.
Worrying about safety can be a constant feeling for their loved ones. The Union County Sheriff’s Office has one resource that could help ease the burden. Project Lifesaver uses a tracking device to help in the search of a missing loved one. Law enforcement can pick up a signal on the device throughout the county.
Sergeant Chad Coppedge said it cuts down on search time and is free, but clients have to agree to wear it. The county picks up the cost with help from community partners. He said it works well for a range of people, including adults who live with dementia and children who live with autism.
“It’s a tremendous weight lifted after we’ve installed it,” said Sgt. Coppedge. “I can’t tell you how many times they’ve called to say thank you so much for providing this service,” he said talking about the families who become clients.
Not all Sheriff’s Offices have Project Lifesaver. Those interested can contact their local law enforcement agency to see if similar options exist or their local council on aging.
The Alzheimer’s Association also offers information to help caregivers prevent wandering or know how to respond quickly if it happens. The Association recommends keeping routines stable for someone with dementia, hiding car keys, and managing the time of day when wandering is more likely to happen.
It important to have a current picture and emergency contact information ready in case a loved one does leave.