Saturday, June 12, 2004

Searchers don't find man

Professor with Alzheimer's missing for three weeks

By Jon Gambrell
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - After three weeks of searches, the whereabouts of a Miami University emeritus professor suffering from Alzheimer's disease remains a mystery.

The disappearance of 81-year-old Charles E. Capel has brought out hundreds of searchers in the Oxford area, to no avail. He is believed to have walked out of his home sometime after going to bed.

Alzheimer's experts say such wandering off often comes with the disease. According to Anne Von Hoene of the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Cincinnati, about 60 percent of all people with the disease will wander and become lost at some point in their illness.

"Wandering is something you can't predict," she said. "They may have had a very sedentary lifestyle. One day, they get it into their mind they need to go to work, after 30 years."

Most wandering Alzheimer's patients are found within a half-mile of their home.

But since Capel's disappearance, Oxford police have thoroughly searched the area near his home. About 450 volunteers covered more than 500 acres in two hours, including the north end of Oxford and ditch lines along several county roads Tuesday night in a final communitywide search.

"It was a pretty exhaustive search," said Oxford Police Sgt. Jim Squance. "If he's out there in the city limits, he's hidden himself well."

Police say they have stopped mass searches, but will continue to follow leads. Meanwhile, police contacted nearby cities and mailed flyers to several cities around the country where Capel used to live, because some people with Alzheimer's disease may "revert" to their earlier lives.

While those with Alzheimer's may be more inclined to wander, there are steps families can take. Most nursing homes now have special wards for those with memory problems.

The Alzheimer's Association offers the "Safe Return" program, where the "memory-impaired" have a metallic identification bracelet, giving a toll-free line for others to call. For more information, call the association at (513) 721-4284.



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