Vail Valley: He was everybody’s grandpa |

Vail Valley: He was everybody’s grandpa

Lorene Gallagher
Special to the Vail Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – He was everybody’s grandpa.

He was a combat medic in Europe during World War II. He was a devoted, gentle father, grandfather and husband who had accomplished so much in his lifetime.

Five weeks ago, 85-year-old Eldon Foster strayed away from his Keenesberg, Colo. care facility in freezing temperatures and died of exposure.

Foster had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He wandered out of the facility around 2:30 a.m., wearing only a T-shirt and underwear. The temperature outside was 3 degrees and 30 minutes later he was found lying on the sidewalk, just 15 feet from the door, with a laceration on his head. An aide helped Foster back to his bed. When the aide checked on him again after an hour, he was unresponsive.

This sad event is made even more tragic by the fact that it was so preventable. It underscores the fact that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia are still so misunderstood.

Was an Alzheimer’s patient placed in a non-secure facility? Was the staff properly trained about the risk for wandering and proper response to this medical emergency? Was his family informed about the nature and risks of this disease?

We still have a long way to go in raising awareness of this disease.

Did You Know:

About 60 percent of persons suffering from Alzheimer’s will wander. The number of individuals who are at risk of wandering in the United States is currently 3,000,000.

There are many like Eldon Foster right here in Eagle County and because our geography and climate are so extreme, the risks are even greater.

Eagle County joined the Colorado Life Trak Program, a program designed to offer peace of mind for families of those who suffer mental disorders that create the desire to wander from their homes. Using specially designed transmitters and tracking devices, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office has the ability to locate, within minutes, someone who has wandered from their home.

The Colorado Life Trak Program is for people who have a mental disability creating the tendency to wander. Examples of these conditions include: Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Down Syndrome, Autism, Prader-Willi and various brain injuries.

The Eagle County Caregiver Support Group understands and wants to help.

The Caregiver Support Group which meets on the second Tuesdays of each month. The next meeting is Feb. 9, at the St. Patrick’s Spirit Center, 461 Main St., in Minturn. The free meeting is from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For more information about the Caregiver Support Group or the Life Trak program, Call Pat Nolan at 970-471-9245.

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