Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fort Thomas Police Give Tips For Preventing "Golden Alerts"

FTM file. 
Earlier this month an elderly Fort Thomas couple was found after a trip to the Kroger in Bellevue spawned a nearly four-hour search which had them dozens of miles from their original destination in Boone County.

According to their family, the husband, who was driving, has dementia and easily gets confused.

Fort Thomas Police Lt. Rich Whitford, who was on the phone with the couple and their family throughout the search, said that it was one of the worst feelings he's had as a police officer.

But according to him, this wasn't the first time the couple has ventured out only to become confused and disoriented of their whereabouts.

Based on pings to their cell phone, the couple was believed to be near Wilder or Fort Thomas, but Whitford said that their cell phone was cutting in and out.

"He was able to communicate with me to tell me that they were near a body of water, but had we not found them, it's possible they could have died that night," said Whitford. "There's just a hole in your stomach, the helplessness that you feel. Ultimately we want to try to get out in front of these situations."

Whitford said there are some proactive steps that families can take to cut down on response time if you have someone you know that is prone to getting confused.

Keeping information on file with the police is crucial, he said.

"Those first precious minutes are very valuable when we first get a call. Families are usually in a panicked state, so getting good information beforehand is important."

Information such as name, age, physical and vehicle description, as well as medication information is helpful.

Once that information is relayed to police, a "Golden Alert" is issued by reverse 911 system. Whitford also said that only the family knows whether or not the keys to the car should be taken away, but the conversation should at least be had.

"Sometimes those conversations can be tough, but if we can save one life, it's worth feeling uncomfortable for a short time," he said.

According to, there are usually some indicators families can look for when deciding whether or not someone should no longer have the ability to drive.

Some of those red flags include involvement in car accidents and minor fender benders, failure to drive appropriate speed limits, ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, getting lost in familiar places and near misses.

But perhaps the most effective way to determine if your loved one is safe to drive is to take a test with a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist.  You can do that here (link). 

"No one wants to take away the independence that comes with driving, and because there is a gray area when it is difficult to know for sure whether or not it is safe for the person to drive,” said Ginny Helms, Vice President of Chapter Services and Public Policy for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Often families delay taking the keys away until the person with Alzheimer’s disease gets lost while driving or becomes involved in an accident.” 

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