An elderly couple from Sevier County, Tennessee, who had been missing for nearly a week, was found in Atlanta on Tuesday, reports WBIR 10 News. Tony and Delores Amaral, who are in their mid-80s, apparently drove for five days in their gold PT Cruiser from state to state unable to find their way home. Their concerned daughter Lisa Oelerich says that one of them had fallen at home, so the couple set out on a car trip to UT Medical Center in Knoxville, which serves East Tennessee residents. But their quick drive to the hospital took a turn for the worse as the couple ended up driving hundreds of miles out of the way when they became lost and unable to return home. The couple’s daughter filled in more details.
“It looks like one of them had fallen at home. It looks like one of them got in the car to take the other to UT Medical Center. They wound up in Chattanooga. Then from Chattanooga they wound up in Kentucky, then from Kentucky, they wound up outside Atlanta,” said Oelerich.
Luckily, on the fifth day, Tony Amaral approached a police officer in Atlanta to ask for help, which ultimately saved the couple from their trip down the rabbit hole.
“[The officer] was doing a routine traffic stop and my father hobbled up to her and asked for directions. That’s how they got found,” said the couple’s daughter.
Apparently, news of the lost couple was on the officer’s radar because their family had been able to determine they were somewhere around Atlanta based on bank transactions. The two elders were returned home safely, and their concerned daughter says that now is the time to take away their car privileges and get help for them. However, she is unsure how much help the couple will be willing to receive, despite recent events. Oelerich says that there aren’t many rights for families who want to keep the elderly with diminished cognitive capabilities safe.
Susan Long, who works for the Knox County CAC Office on Aging, spoke to WBIR about the difficult topic.
“It happens all the time…It usually comes up suddenly and it’s often times a surprise to the individual and the family member that the situation is that severe.”
While Long says that sometimes ensuring the safety of family members in this type of situation involves going to court and proving they need restrictions, the best way to approach incapacitated elderly family members is through a caring discussion with loved ones and the doctor.