Finding Family: A new program in Colorado offers support to anyone who may become lost due to cognitive diseases

A new program in Colorado offers support to anyone who may become lost due to cognitive diseases
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 5:28 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - For many people, losing a family member is one of the hardest things they’ll have to endure in their lifetime but losing them while they’re still alive is a struggle that can be even more difficult to navigate.

“I’d never really been around anybody with dementia and a friend of mine, his wife, had early onset dementia,” said Scott Pinkney, an advocate for programs that support people with cognitive diseases.

In 2016, Pinkney’s best friend lost his wife, Nancy, when she wandered away from their group during a family trip to a museum in California. Two years later, the day after Christmas, Pinkney got the news that Nancy’s remains had been found.

“I can still remember reading that email, and after everybody replied with their prayers and everything, I told everyone ‘I don’t think I’m done yet,’” said Pinkney. “I just want to make sure nobody in Colorado has to go through that.”

The following month, Pinkney, who is based in Colorado, began contacting law enforcement agencies across the state to see what could be done to prevent anyone else from having to suffer through the same kind of tragedy. That’s when a new initiative began to create the People Who Wander program.

“There’s any number of cognitive issues that may arise in someone’s life or health journey that would result in them having that propensity to wander,” said Susan Medina, Chief of Staff for Colorado Bureau of Investigation. “This program was created to drive traffic to one spot that allows people to get information not only to help themselves but their family members.”

SB22-187 established a website of helpful resources, as well as a grant program that allows law enforcement agencies to apply for state funds in order to buy tracking equipment that can be fitted on to someone who is at risk of becoming lost.

“Let’s say your loved one goes missing, we have a section on the website for what to expect when you call dispatch to report that person missing, these are the questions they’re going to ask, this is what you should be prepared for,” said Medina.

Pinkney says he’s grateful that Nancy’s story didn’t end with her passing, but has instead become the beginning of something that will help countless families for years to come.

“There’s somebody there for you,” said Pinkney. “You’re not alone.”