California Highway Patrol officers Brooks and Zirate were on their patrol near Buellton when they noticed a blacked-out vehicle parked on the right shoulder of Highway 101.
It was early Christmas Eve at 12:40 a.m. when the officers contacted the driver, identified by her license as 84-year-old Kate Finney. According to a post on CHP Buellton's Facebook page, when the officers asked the woman if she needed help, she seemed emotional and confused.
Kate explained to the officers that she had been driving and suddenly the vehicle stopped. After a short conversation, the officers say they knew something was wrong.
The officers discovered that Kate had left Palm Springs and continued driving until she ran out of gas. The officers asked dispatch to check to see if there was an active “Silver Alert” for Kate which came back negative.
They were able to locate a phone number for Kate's son, who said she was missing and he had been calling everyone he knew in an attempt to locate her because she suffers from Alzheimer’s. Kate's son said he lives in Oregon and was frantically trying to reach his daughter in San Diego who is the closest relative.
The officers coordinated with CHP Buellton's on-call Sergeant Fajardo, who instructed them to bring Kate back to the office for supervision where Kate would have a safe and comfortable place to rest while waiting for her family to arrive.
Later that day, Kate was safely reunited with her granddaughter and able to spend Christmas with her family in the comfort of her own home.
CHP wants to remind people that if they know anyone who suffers from Alzheimer's, please make sure they carry:
- Proper Identification
- Updated emergency contact information
- A list of medications or known allergies
(This may include tagging their clothes or wearing a bracelet or necklace with information)
If an elderly family member who suffers from Dementia/Alzheimer’s is missing, contact your local law enforcement agency to issue a Silver Alert to help locate them.