‘Always keep a close eye,’ son advocates for seniors with dementia who often go missing

Recent numbers from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office revealed there have been 159 people with dementia who have gone missing in the last year and a half in Duval County.


Thankfully, many of those missing person cases have a happy ending, with police and first responders successfully locating a missing loved one.

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On Jan. 10 of this year, Wilbens Nonord got a phone call that his father was missing.

“It’s very stressful when you have someone that you love so much, that don’t know how to find their way back home, don’t know how to contact home, and they go missing,” Nonord said.

His 78-year-old father has dementia and wandered off.

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“He was missing for about 3 days,” Nonord said.

The 78-year-old was found dehydrated, lying in a bush, on Jan. 12. Fortunately, he was safe. Resources from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department played a big role in finding him.

“They were updating us on what they were doing, what they were going to do, and any tips that they got,” Nonord said.

The two agencies use a program called MEPSAR. It stands for ‘Missing Endangered Persons Search and Rescue Program.’ It starts with a 911 call, where information is collected to build a profile. Then, the sheriff’s office collaborates with fire rescue to build a map of the areas with the highest probability of finding the victim.

Between June of 2021 to present day, there have been 159 missing persons with dementia, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Prior to those dates, the Sheriff’s office did not track the number of missing people with that diagnosis.

For Nonord, he’s thankful for the MEPSAR system, but said the number of silver alerts needs to go down.

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“I would say make sure you always keep a close eye on them,” Nonord said.

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