Friday, February 29, 2008

Alzheimer's patient found, says she went on walk

Daily Sound Photo: Janelle Holcombe
Kari Peoples welcomes her grandmother, Carla
Seed, home. Seed was missing for 42 hours before
she was seen by Peoples walking towards her
Shoreline Drive home yesterday.


Just before noon yesterday, 86-year-old Carla Seed returned home from a long walk.
For nearly 42 hours, fleets of Santa Barbara Police officers, neighbors, search and rescue crews, family members and even a helicopter searched for Seed, who was reported missing by her husband at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Seed’s granddaughter, Kari Peoples, saw her grandmother approach from the front window of their Shoreline Drive home and said to the rest of her family, “I swear to God that looks like grandma.”
Turns out it was grandma, and as a handful of search-weary family members ran onto the front lawn, Bill Seed, Carla’s husband of 36-years, stood for a moment in the kitchen, stunned that his wife, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 12 years ago, had returned home safely.
“I almost fell down,” Bill told the Daily Sound. “My knees started to give out. I kind of just had to gather myself.”
Bill said his wife “acted like she’d just gone on a walk and was coming back from a walk.”
Peoples said the first thing her grandma said was, “They can’t find me.”
“I said, ‘well, we found you now,’” Peoples said.
Seed’s daughter, Dee Johnson, said one of the first things she noticed about her mother was that she was wearing a different sweater than the blue sweatshirt she had last been seen in, and that she was surprisingly clean.
“Someone has given her a sweater and given her shelter because she wasn’t dirty,” Johnson said. “She hasn’t been sleeping under a bush.”
As Johnson was explaining this from the Seed’s kitchen yesterday, Carla turned from where she was sitting and said, “I bought it [the sweater].”
And when Johnson told a reporter that her mother didn’t have any money, Carla turned once again and said she had “one dollar and twenty eight cents.”
The family laughed and noted that Carla usually says she has $1.98.
Due to the nature of Alzheimer’s disease, which according to the Associated Press is a neurological disorder that includes symptoms of memory loss, impairment of judgment, disorientation, personality change, difficulty in learning and loss of language skills, Johnson said it’s not likely that her family will ever know all of the details about where Carla went and what she did while she was gone.
“We have no idea where she’s been,” she said.
According to Johnson this isn’t the first time her mother has walked away.
About 18 months ago she said her mother was found by police walking east on Shoreline Drive carrying a pillow.
Johnson said luckily her mother knew where she lived and the police drove her home.
In order to prevent it from happening again, Johnson said the family is going to install alarms on the doors and hire a caregiver.
Sgt. Gary Wolfe said the Santa Barbara Police Department is dispatched to roughly six incidents similar to this one each year, but none in his memory lasted this long or were this big in terms of the search.
And sometimes, Wolf said, they don’t always end well.
“Sometimes they’re happy endings and sometimes they’re not,” he said. “There’s no better ending than to find a person like this; to see her home safe.”
Aside from law enforcement agents, Wolfe said a number of residents walked the streets, hanging fliers in nearby storefront windows and joining in the search.
“It was really a good community effort,” he said. “We had a tremendous amount of support from the community.”
Johnson credited the police, who she said didn’t give up and worked around the clock to find her mother.
“The police have been wonderful,” she said. “They get five stars.”
Not more than an hour after Carla returned home, the atmosphere on the 1200 block of Shoreline Drive was one of relief and celebration.
A handful of police officers could bee seen smiling in the driveway of the Seed home, while the Seed family was busy inside celebrating with wine and Carla’s favorite, a crisp, light beer.
Johnson said her mother was slightly dehydrated when she came home, so Bill gave her a Miller Light – not what she would have picked, but it did the trick.
“Her favorite beer is a Coors Light,” Bill said as he smiled at his wife. “We’re just happy that you’re home.”

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