Grandparents should be treasured, which could be why there is now an annual Grandparents Day. It is a day of celebration but for the family of Bill Byerley Sunday's Grandparents Day was extra special after a scare when both grandparents went missing.
Vern and Elaine Schweisthal are experiencing the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia. Both are not unusual in old age but when both partners have either life is tricky. In early summer Vern and Elaine went missing for two days and their family were frantic with worry.
On July 19 Vern, 89, and Elaine, 85, got their vehicle out, climbed aboard and set off for a lunch date with a friend. It should have been a brief journey as their lunch date was only about 20 minutes away from their home in Elmhurst, Ill.
As Vern and Elaine are experiencing health issues Bill Byerley's mother makes sure her parents Vern and Elaine stay safe. Almost every evening she calls them to catch up on the day's events and check that they are safe and well. When she could not raise them on the evening of July 19 Bill knew something was wrong.
Mashable reports that Bill:
Cut a meeting short and drove over to their house, about 40 miles away from his own home in New Lennox, Ill.
When he reached his grandparent's home it was empty. The vehicle was missing, the house lights were off and Vern and Elaine were nowhere to be found. On contacting the lunch-date Bill learned his grandparents had failed to show.
Uneasily Bill, 30, went home hoping they would turn up before morning, but they did not. The search was on.
Byerley utilized local search and rescue volunteers but to no avail. Vern and Elaine had vanished.
When traditional methods failed Bill turned to the Internet, Facebook in particular. He created a Facebook page dedicated to finding his grandparents. Neighbors, family and friends posted updates describing the elderly couple. The "Help Find Vernon and Elaine Schweisthal" page racked up more than 650 likes in its first two hours online reports Mashable. The page received a great deal of attention and two days later the couple were found.
Poster of the missing couple
On Sunday morning, nearly two full days after Vern and Elaine left their house for lunch, a tip from a woman who ran into an elderly couple at a truck stop helped narrow Byerley's search to the area around Princeton, Ill. Byerley used the Facebook page to tell people following the case to focus on the Princeton area. Another woman who lives near Princeton took that information and went for a drive, Byerley says, cruising backroads and seldom-used routes for any sign of Vern, Elaine or their Camry.
Byerley says the woman eventually located them on a remote gravel farm road. They'd run out of gas. They hadn't eaten or drunk anything for two days, and hadn't spent a cent on lodging. Elaine thought they were on vacation, and Vern thought they'd only been gone a day. They'd put a total of 950 miles on the Camry in what was originally supposed to be a 20-minute trip. Doctors took them to a nearby hospital, where they were given fluids and looked over by doctors.
Once the dust had settled Bill acknowledged the power of Facebook which had enabled him to reach a wide audience and secure his grandparent's safety.
Last Sunday's National Grandparents Day in the US was extra special for this family.