Lost in JFK
After several weeks of rest and relaxation with family
and friends on the island of Haiti, Mr. and Mrs. Edouard
Certil were returning home to New Jersey flying into JFK
International Airport in Queens. Mr. Certil is diagnosed
with Alzheimer’s disease. It was a cold Thursday February
evening when they landed in New York City. Edouard,
an American citizen, stood on the United States passport
line at JFK. His wife, a Haitian citizen, had to wait on
the foreign national’s line. The separation between Mr.
& Mrs. Certil apparently made Edouard confused and
disoriented in this bewildering and unfamiliar environment.
Edouard managed to get through customs first,
and walked out of the waiting area and disappeared.
For those who are cognitively intact, getting through
customs can be challenging; for those with cognitive
impairment, it can be unsafe, unless accompanied by a
Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® received a call
from Detective Osada of the Linden, New Jersey Police
Department, asking if we were able to assist in the recovery
of Mr. Certil even though he was not registered
with Safe Return. We informed the detective that Safe
Return provides assistance to all individuals with dementia,
even if they are not registered. Enrollment in Safe
Return is then strongly encouraged once the individual
is recovered. The Greater New Jersey Chapter asked if
we could lend a hand by faxing a missing person report
to several regions in New Jersey, as well as local hospitals
and emergency responders within the five boroughs. We
were glad to help.
Working cooperatively with the Greater New Jersey
Chapter, New York and New Jersey Police Departments,
Safe Return began to provide support for the Certil family
during this frightening ordeal. Hoping to locate him
quickly, the Certil family began to post flyers and search
locally. Unfortunately there were no leads. Because
wandering behavior can be dangerous, if not found within
24 hours, half of those who wander risk serious injury
or death. We asked the family if they were interested in
getting the story in the press. Brendan Keefe, a reporter
from WCBS-TV, interviewed the concerned family and
covered the story. By this time, Edouard had been missing
for several days and his 75th birthday was approaching.
Due to our fax broadcasting and media exposure a “Good Samaritan” recognized his picture on television. When she returned to her job at Mount Sinai Hospital in
Queens she related the information to a social worker. The
description on the fax report matched that of Mr. Certil.
He was found cold, shivering, confused and disoriented in
a building in Brooklyn and was taken to the hospital by
EMS. Unable to respond to any questions and not having
any identification made it impossible to identify him.
Mr. Certil was returned home after several days in
the hospital, where he was treated for exposure. He has
been seen by his doctor in New Jersey, and is doing well.
You can be sure that Mr. Certil will be registered in the
Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program. The New
Jersey Chapter is following up with the family, providing
needed support and information.
Traveling with a person with AD and other dementias
requires special considerations. If you are considering
traveling abroad or locally and have not enrolled the
person you are caring for now is the time. Keep in
mind when someone with Alzheimer’s disease wanders
a rapid response increases the chances that the person
will be found quickly. For more tips on traveling with
your relative with AD, please click here.
For information about Safe Return or to enroll, please
call 646.744.2918, or click here.
— Elizabeth Santiago,
Manager, Safe Return
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