Healthy Living

The Challenge of Wanderers: What Should Caregivers Do?

The story of George Pochiba

Photo: Picture of George Pochiba held by his daughter Neva Neizmik. Source: By Antonella Crescimbeni on the Post-Gazette

Someone with dementia who wanders may quickly forget their address and become disoriented, making it essentially impossible for them to find their way home on their own. They may also forget their own names, rendering efforts to call out to them ineffective. Oftentimes, they keep walking, seemingly aimlessly, until they become injured or too tired to go on. However, they usually don’t get very far. Wanderers are oftentimes found within a mile of their home or original location.

That was the case for George Pochiba, who wandered from his home one evening in June 2014. At age 90, Mr. Pochiba was suffering from many common dementia symptoms, such as the inability to recognize familiar faces or continue to carry out his normal, daily activities. He had established a “nostalgia-fueled routine” of evening checks on his animals, though the retired trucking operator did not have any animals. His neighbor had a barn, also without animals. Still, Mr. Pochiba made a habit of often walking over to the barn. 

On that June night, however, Mr. Pochiba did not return home. His family contacted the authorities, and a large group of emergency personnel and volunteers got to work searching for him. They used tools such as helicopters, thermal imaging tools, and canines to assist their search. Still, after three days of effort, they had not found Mr. Pochiba and called off the official search. Authorities informed his family that they were confident Mr. Pochiba was nowhere within five miles of his home. They predicted that he must have been picked up and taken away by someone in a vehicle. His body was found in a field less than a mile from his home four weeks later.