Howard Cook learns lessons of how to deal with Alzheimer's after wife goes missing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - After days of searching for his missing wife Hellen, Howard Cook says he has learned some hard lessons.

"I thought I was doing a great job taking care of her and watching over her," he said, "Hellen never indicated at any time that she wanted to run away or walk away or whatever up until two or three weeks ago."

He described a few odd instances like waiting during a doctor's appointment where Hellen suddenly walked away. Doctors diagnosed Hellen with Alzheimers disease in 2009. But the last time she wandered off, no one saw her walk away.

Jeff Burns, Md, is trying to find a cure at the University of Kansas Alzheimers Disease Center.
"Often people with the middle to later stages of Alzheimers disease might be a little more restless than usual," he said, "Close to 50 percent of people at age 85 and above have Alzheimers disease. So that is an amazing number. At 65 and above, it's about 1 in 8 people," Burns said.

Burns says we are seeing more cases because the biggest part of our population is aging. People at the biggest risk for Alzheimers are 65 and older.

Just last month in Kansas City, Wynona Black, 69, took off in the family car. She suffers from the disease and isn't allowed to drive.

In May, Ellen "Jane" Cates never made it to her Overland Park, Kan., church. Instead, someone found her in Iowa. She suffered dementia.

"They don't' know what they're supposed to be doing. You get lost even in your own home and that sort of anxiety can provoke them to get up and go," Burns said.

But Burns says even the best protection plans can fail. Both Black and Cates were found safe and Howard Cook firmly believes Hellen will be too, making plans for when she comes home.

"I realize now that I'm probably gonna have to have some help," he said.

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