Family shares lessons learned after woman with Alzheimer’s goes missing

Irma Rivera was found safe Thursday after disappearing for more than a day

ORLANDO, Fla. – A 92-year-old Orange County woman with Alzheimer’s disease was missing for more than 24 hours. since her rescue, her family said they have several takeaways on how to keep their loved ones safe.

Irma Rivera wandered away from home early Wednesday morning and wasn’t found until Thursday afternoon.

“The policemen went door to door and so did we,” said Rivera’s youngest daughter, Odette Miranda. “We did three times, and it wasn’t until the third time we went close to the lake and that’s where my niece found her.”

Miranda said she and her family have learned some important lessons when it comes to having a plan in place in case her mom wanders off again.

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“Do things that you don’t think about, such as tag them, get the scent kit so the dogs can find them easily, get the wristband, get the ankle band, anything that can help them search quick,” Miranda said. “We are going to get the scent kit and the ankle bracelet.”

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced a partnership in December with the Senior Resource Alliance and Scent Evidence K9.

The agency received 1,500 kits to distribute and gave one to Rivera’s family. The kits come with an evidence-grade glass container to store a piece of gauze cloth with the person’s scent on it. Sergeant Sergio Uribe said the scent lasts up to 10 years and provides the best possible scent to the bloodhounds.

Uribe said having the kits can help ease the family’s anxiety if their loved ones wander off or go missing.

“So, when you have a scent kit, it increases the sheriff’s office’s capability of locating and finding that person in a shorter amount of time, maybe even closer because as time goes on, you know that difficulty becomes harder for us,” Uribe said.

OCSO also offers the Project Lifesaver program. Uribe said it’s a bracelet that allows the sheriff’s office to use a high-frequency device to locate a person in a certain area where they were last seen.

To get your own scent kit, you can pick one up for free at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Central Operations Center located at 2500 W. Colonial Drive. The kit must be picked up Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

To learn more about Project Lifesaver, click here.

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Emily joined WKMG-TV in November 2022.