91-year-old Thomas Drew wandered confusedly away from his rural Connecticut home five years ago last Saturday and never returned. This article talks about his disappearance within the context of the problems trying to take care of old people who can’t really take care of themselves, but are not in nursing homes.
Drew’s kids had hired a live-in companion for him and also another, backup caretaker, but neither of them were licensed. The live-in guy was out all afternoon and when he returned, the other caretaker said Drew had “gone for a walk” just a few minutes before. He was never seen again.
I wonder how the old man, who reportedly had very limited mobility (wrote “nobility” at first, ha), suffered a lot of falls and couldn’t even get out of his church without assistance, could have “gone for a walk.” And more to the point, how he could have vanished so completely. This is not to imply that Mr. Drew met with foul play or that anyone lied about the circumstances of his disappearance. I know that people with dementia have been known to wander tremendous distances. My opinion, though, is that Mr. Drew probably isn’t very far from home. He’s probably lying out in the woods somewhere nearby. Sometimes people disappear and their bodies turn up, years later, only a hundred or two hundred yards from where they vanished.
Anyway, the article explains how it’s difficult to make sure elderly people get the care they need. Thomas Drew was apparently well-to-do (he’d been a clothing designer who graduated from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology) and his daughters, neither of whom lived nearby, had power of attorney over his affairs, so presumably they could afford to hire people to look after him. Of course, even that proved to be not enough. And what about old people who aren’t wealthy and don’t have living relatives, or their relatives don’t know or don’t care that they’re into such bad shape? Earlier this month I wrote about two old ladies, one of them more than 100 years old, who vanished and weren’t missed for YEARS.
In Connecticut at least, there are “mandated reporters” who, if they know an elderly person can’t manage on their own anymore, are required to tell the state so the state can provide assistance. It’s just like with child abuse. But according to the article, only “licensed physicians and nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists and anyone providing care through a nursing home or agency are among mandatory reporters.”
Both of Thomas Drew’s caretakers weren’t licensed, so they weren’t mandated to report anything and they didn’t. Perhaps they thought they could handle it; perhaps they simply didn’t have enough experience to realize just how bad things had gotten; perhaps they didn’t know you could report this sort of thing, who knows. And, as Charley Project readers are well aware of, even if a person is in a nursing home, that doesn’t mean they can’t disappear.
It’s a big problem, and it’s going to get worse because the U.S. has an aging population.
I just think it’s really sad that Thomas Drew, who had lived to be more than 90 years old, had to (presumably) die under those conditions.