My heart goes out to all families with loved ones who are affected by dementia. It is hard to see your loved one start to forget and become disoriented.

My heart goes out to all families with loved ones who are affected by dementia. It is hard to see your loved one start to forget and become disoriented.

That is what the family members of Gabriel Padron said he was beginning to do just before he disappeared on Feb. 9. His niece said he had forgotten where he was twice in the last six months. Unfortunately Mr. Padron, 74, had not been officially diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, so police could not issue a Silver Alert immediately after he went missing.

I recently received an email from Glenda Meredith, who reached out to say that she was so sad that Mr. Padron was still missing.

“It is so important to get a formal medical diagnosis of this illness, because a Silver Alert just might have located him,” she wrote. “I have now dealt with several of these individuals, and I know that it is not unusual for them to accept rides from strangers, then many miles down the road, tell the drivers they are ready to get out, etc. Even if the drivers were innocent, harmless, just concerned individuals, the person with dementia is now totally lost; what’s worse, that innocent driver may not want to report giving them the ride, for fear of becoming a suspect when the person isn’t located.

“Please, if you have an elderly family member with dementia, get them medically identified!” she urged.

Glenda said she does not formally work with those who suffer from these afflictions, but once you have dealt with a loved one who does suffer with them, you have experience. Her mother suffered from Alzheimer’s she said.

“Several times (she) walked out onto a highway near Ballinger looking for rides, something she would never have done in her right mind,” Glenda said.

Glenda belongs to an Alzheimer’s support group so over the last several years, she has learned a lot about the disease.

Now, her husband, Norval Meredith, 72, who owned Keel Drug in Ballinger for 30 years, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She said that Norval no longer drives or has access to a vehicle “but like Mr. Padron he is still able to walk for long distances.”

A few weeks ago the Merediths, who now live in Gonzales, were in Seguin helping an elderly person at the Social Security office.

“Norval decided we had waited long enough and began actually begging people in the parking lot for rides! If I had not been with him, and if someone had actually given him a ride, I am sure he wouldn’t have been able to tell them where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do! It is an extremely sad, baffling disease, and I have a strong feeling that this is what happened to Mr. Padron,” Glenda said.

Glenda wanted to stress that the people who picked up Mr. Padron may not have had ill or evil intentions.

“Elderly persons with dementia can get bored and seek adventures in a very similar fashion to troubled children, but at some point they will get tired and want to go home, and if they can’t or won’t tell their names to the driver, and they almost never remember a phone number or address, chances are they will just get left somewhere, many miles down the road,” Glenda said. “They may even pretend that they know the place the driver is leaving them! I can only hope that an innocent (but unwise) driver that does something like this will not be afraid to report it if they find out the authorities are searching for the person.”

I agree Glenda and thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge. The Padron family is frantic and continues to seek information on Mr. Padron’s whereabouts. If you have anything to report, contact the Ballinger Police Department at 325-365-3591.

For more information on Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia go https://www.alz.org/.

Celinda Hawkins is the managing editor of the Runnels County Register. She can be reached by calling 432-349-2736 or via email at chawkins@gatehousemedia.com.