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Woman with Alzheimer's dies after going missing

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An 85-year-old woman with Alzheimer's died after going missing from a Twin Lakes home.

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The woman disappeared around 4 a.m. Saturday, according to a news release from the Freeborn County Sheriff's Office. Authorities arrived to the the site near 805 Highway 69 S. around 7 a.m., and began an "extensive search."

The woman was found a short time later, about 200 meters from the house, near an old railroad bed, the sheriff's office said. Responders immediately started "lifesaving efforts," but were not successful.

She was pronounced dead at the scene; foul play is not suspected.

'Wandering' a serious concern

Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that "destroys memory and other important mental functions," the Mayo Clinic says. It's the most common cause of dementia .

The Alzheimer's Association says nearly 5.3 million Americans suffer from the disease, which is fatal. Of those, 5.1 million are age 65 or older. Two-thirds are women.

There is no cure.

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The Alzheimer's Association says three out of every five people with Alzheimer's (or another form of dementia) will wander – becoming disoriented or lost, largely due to memory and cognitive issues.

The group says if someone with dementia is missing, start search-and-rescue efforts right away – 94 percent of people who wander are found within 1 1/2 miles of where they left.

If someone isn't found within 24 hours, as many as half end up seriously injured or dead, the association says.

The Minnesota-North Dakota chapter of the association has a 24/7 help hotline, as well as information on nearby programs.

Kimberly Kelly, founder and director of the Alzheimer's education program Project Far From Home, told the Huffington Post in 2013 that there are "approximately 125,000 search-and-rescue missions where volunteer teams are deployed ... for missing Alzheimer's patients every year."

That said, simply walking isn't bad. If the person has always enjoyed a regular walk, he or she may just be continuing that pattern, the Alzheimer's Society says. They could also simply be bored, or have pent up energy.

It can still be a concern for caregivers however, so it's "important to find a solution that preserves the person's independence and dignity."

The Alzheimer's Association provides a detailed list of tips when caring for someone with Alzheimer's – both how to help prevent wandering (including having a clear routine, using signaling devices if a door or window is opened, and keeping car keys out of sight) and how to react if someone disappears.

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