Mitchell: How can senior with Alzheimer’s remain missing in Chicago?

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Serie McDougal Jr. disappeared from his South Shore home on Memorial Day.

According to family members, the 68-year-old African-American man, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, slipped out of the house in the early evening. He left behind his wallet and keys.

A neighbor told McDougal her husband was headed toward 72nd and Stony Island. But a search of the area came up empty.

After quickly searching the neighborhood, his wife, Ann McDougal, contacted the Chicago Police Department and filed a missing person’s report early the next day.

Family members went block to block posting fliers in areas McDougal is known to frequent.

“I don’t know how he could have possibly functioned in the weather we have had,” his wife said. “I don’t think he is outside or we would have found him by now.”

OPINION

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The Chicago Police Department circulated an alert about McDougal’s disappearance on May 28 and again on Friday.

Sgt. Patricia Stribling of the department’s Special Victims Unit said getting the media to show photographs of a missing person is the most helpful thing because the public has a “misperception” that the alerts go to everyone.

“Only hospitals that subscribe to the actual system get the fliers,” Stribling said. “If their administrators say this is something they want, they have to contact their police department.”

She said finding a missing person with Alzheimer’s disease could be difficult.

“A lot of Alzheimer’s patients will walk forever and keep on walking right out of the city,” she said.

Also, because of privacy laws, a hospital where someone ends up might choose not to disclose that infomation, particularly when an Alzheimer’s patient is able to communicate.

“Unless you are a guardian, you’re not getting any information,” she said.

But Ann McDougal believes the “Silver Alert” system could have helped in this situation. The Silver Alert is a public notification system to broadcast information about missing senior citizens with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and mental disabilities.

“It is up to the police department to notify their officers on the street and put it on the car radio,” McDougal said. “They never did that.”

Instead, McDougal said, the police gave her 50 fliers that she posted around the neighborhood and distributed to businesses.

“I don’t want to make it seem like the police are bad, but it seemed like they didn’t take a missing black man as something serious,” she said.

Serie_McDougal_Chicago_Police_Department_359x600.jpg

Serie McDougal Jr. | Chicago Police Department

“When he first was missing, I got a call every other day. Now, they have slacked off, and I haven’t heard from a detective for a week and a half.

But Stribling said the McDougal disappearance is very much an active investigation.

“Senior citizens — we look for them around the clock,” she said.

Unfortunately, this kind of missing person case is becoming more common.

Three out of five people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander at some point. If not found within 24 hours, up to half of those who do will suffer serious injury or death, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“It is sad,” Stribling said. “I wish there could be some kind of GPS or tracking system that they could wear.”

If you have any information about the whereabouts of Serie McDougal Jr., please call 911.

Follow Mary Mitchell on Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST

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