Lost and found items for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease


by Xinhua Writers Yao Yulin, Wang Xiaojie and Zhao Xu

BEIJING, Sept.21 (Xinhua) – Su Xiao, 49, and Xu Guangchun, 42, are like-minded souls on the streets of the bustling Chinese capital of Beijing, checking surveillance cameras and checking passers-by, with a near constant barrage of calls on their phones.

They seek to help older people with Alzheimer’s disease, a serious illness that can easily erase patient memory and other major mental functions.

Seven years ago, Su and Xu co-founded the Beijing Voluntary Emergency Rescue Service Center, which launched a public welfare campaign to help struggling families reunite with their lost elders in 2016.

Su, passionate about outdoor sports, is a seasoned mountain rescue professional. On New Years Day 2016, he was on his way to a nearby ski resort where he met an apathetic and pale elderly woman who was holding a bag and trembling with cold under a bridge.

She was muttering, saying that she was about to buy noodles for her son, Su reminded her grandmother, an Alzheimer’s patient. “A lady of her age and with such health problems was most likely unable to care for her children,” Su recalls.

Su reported to the police without hesitation, and the police managed to find a piece of paper with a contact number in the pocket of the lost elderly person. It turned out that days had passed since the elderly person lost connection with his family and traveled more than 40 km from his home in southwest Beijing to this unknown location. east of town.

“Before going home, the old lady just grabbed me, begging me to give her some food stamps so she could go and buy some noodles,” Su said. However, food stamps existed decades ago, when China was still a centrally planned economy.

Although they lose almost all of their recent memories, patients with the disease often have vivid memories of things that happened a long time ago.

They can easily get lost, even in familiar surroundings. Once lost, they can succumb to the elements.

According to statistics revealed by a white paper released in 2016 by the Zhongmin Welfare Institute, around 500,000 elderly people are lost each year, of whom about 80 percent are over 65 years old. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the top three reasons for their death. is gone.

Su and her rescue team have concluded their golden rule: watch surveillance videos first to sort out clues before other rescues, and rely on the old people’s past experiences in their childhood and youth.

Su once managed to find an 80-year-old patient along a river in the suburbs of Beijing, based on the elder’s life experience of living on a river boat.

“About 90 percent of the elderly lost have never had relevant hospital inspections. It is just common for family members to take for granted that people cannot remember things properly as they get older,” he said. Xu said.

However, the youngest among the missing is only around 49 years old, Su said, adding that patients under the age of 60 are difficult to spot by their families and society, let alone those who view the disease as worrying and do not want to confide in their neighbors, relatives and friends.

Meanwhile, society lacks knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease. “The lost elderly are often given food from warm people, but what passers-by really should do is report to the police,” Su said.

To date, Su and Xu’s “found objects” have sent more than 320 elderly people home safe and sound. More than 500 volunteers, including some family members of the previously lost elderly, joined the rescue team.

“The farther we walk, the closer the lost elders come to their homes,” said Su, whose own child is also often involved in the team’s search efforts.

(Intern Su Xing also contributed to the story)


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