Digital Exclusive: Ohio man with dementia accidentally drives to Luzerne County, family discusses dementia awareness

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One man's story of how serious dementia can be

KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — On Monday, April 5, 88-year-old Fred Lorenz of Lake County, Ohio took his truck to be serviced nearby. After not returning home a few hours later, his wife reported him missing.

“He told me he was trying to get back to Plainsville, in Ohio. That’s when I told him where he was, specifically in Kingston in Northeast PA, and that’s when he said ‘I’m in a lot of trouble’,” Sergeant Thomas McTague of the Kingston Police Department said.

Lorenz was planning on giving it to his grandson as a gift, and wanted to make sure it was perfect. Hours later his wife started to worry because he hadn’t returned home. She called her daughter, Ann Garton, and told her she had reported Lorenz missing.

“So he just got it in his head it had to be taken in on Monday. We found him 10 hours later, 350 miles away,” Ann Garton, Lorenz’s daughter, said.

Sergeant McTague was the person who found him.

“I saw that it was an elderly gentleman driving the truck. When I got behind the vehicle he was driving in the opposite lane of traffic, driving in the center of the roadway. Driving very slow though,” McTague said.

Lorenz has a mild form of dementia. He didn’t realize anything was wrong.

“I thought I was going north on Route 11, and I wasn’t. I was going south. Somewhere along the line, I turned off, and my brain didn’t tell me I was lost. But the officer did,” Lorenz said.

Lorenz tells Eyewitness News he wasn’t concerned at all, he just figured he knew where he was going. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office included Lorenz’s diagnoses in a Silver Alert, a notification sent out, especially for missing elderly people. McTague says it helped him stop Lorenz.

“I knew how to proceed. I stopped the vehicle, I turned my lights off after I stopped him. Nothing you know, that would have caused him any type of fear,” McTague said.

Dr. Glen Finney, Director of the Memory and Cognition program at Geisinger Health, says getting lost is a common warning sign of dementia.

“Dementia is really a syndrome that any number of diseases that causes a loss or damage to functions in more than one area of memory and thinking that is bad enough to actually impact real world functions,” Dr. Finney said.

Dr. Finney says there are resources for those with dementia.

“One of the main resources that people can go through, is the Alzheimer’s association. They have a website and a 1-800 number, 24/7. Even though the name is Alzheimer’s they really do help with Alzheimer’s disease and latent disorders including other dementias,” Dr. Finney said.

Other resources for those with dementia can be their family and doctors for support. Everyone involved in this bizarre adventure is just glad Lorenz was found and able to get back home safely.

Lorenz says he no longer has his car keys.

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