SAULT STE. MARIE – Each year, approximately 125,000 seniors in Ontario living with dementia are at risk of wandering and going missing.
In Sault Ste. Marie, close to 3,000 people have been diagnosed with the syndrome, but officials suspect there could be even more.
"We have approximately 2,900 people with a diagnosis of dementia and we think there's probably double that for people living in our community that have cognitive impairment. 60% of the people with the diagnosis of dementia are at risk of wandering," said Terry Caporossi, Alzheimer Society Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District.
A new province-wide program called "finding Your Way" will help educate people about how to reduce the risk and what to do should an incident occur.
The Alzheimer Society says it has a Director of Education who helps police and frontline workers dealing with people suffering from dementia.
"She will go out into the community to provide meaningful education for people with a diagnosis, or the general public, so they can understand the risks of wandering for seniors in our community," said Caporossi.
"This funding will go a long way towards not only helping those individuals and their families in dealing with this incredibly difficult disease that has affected us all in some way, shape or form in our personal lives. But more so than that, I think it's also important to raise awareness, so that those people we're concerned about may be suffering, we need to help them get to a diagnosis sooner," said Roass Romano, Sault Ste. Marie MPP.
Experts say about 50% of people who go missing for 24 hours risk serious injury or death from exposure or drowning.
If someone with dementia goes missing, officials advice immediately calling 9-1-1.