MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — People with Alzheimer’s and dementia are at great risk of wandering away, and their families are asking for help to protect them.

“It’s absolute shock when you get a phone call and it says, ‘We don’t know where your dad is,’” Andrew Falzon told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan Thursday.

Falzon’s father, Alfred, wandered away from his assisted living center in the middle of the night last July. CBS2’s cameras were there during the frantic search for the Alzheimer’s patient.

“I’m very upset. He’s my father, he’s 77 years old, he has dementia, he’s cognitively impaired and he’s trying to figure out his way around in a very strange world right now,” Andrew Falzon said at the time.

“Alzheimer’s and dementia — that’s a big storm coming; that we need to recognize that more and more families are going to be affected by this as time goes on,” said Long Island U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-New York).

At NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola Thursday, there was an urgent call to assist those who wander.

Alfred Falzon was found alive and safe in woods of the Northern State Parkway 36 hours after he disappeared. But experts said more than half such patients will end up with a serious injury or even die within 24 hours on their own.

“Having a GPS tracking device is a wonderful mechanism to find them quickly,” said NYU Winthrop geriatrician Dr. Paula Lester. “Once you find them, the providers need to know, and law enforcement needs to know, how to best address them engage them and keep them safe

The U.S. Senate just approved a bill providing tracking and training for law enforcement. But it must also be passed by the House of Representatives.

“You need dementia-specific training for best practices on how to deal with somebody who’s living with Alzheimer’s or even autism,” said Charles Fuschillo, chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. “That is why this legislation is critically important.”

Andrew Falzon said baby boomers will need help. He said he is bearing the brunt of all the difficulty when it comes to his father’s condition.

“I’m an only child. My mom passed away five years ago,” he said, “so his care has fallen primarily on me.”

On Long Island alone, more than 50,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia, and thousands more are their caregivers — eager for federal assistance.”

The bipartisan Missing Americans Alert Act would provide $10 million for Alzheimer’s assistance.

More From CBS New York

Download Weather App
Bloomberg WCBS Tri-State Business Index
Hear It On Demand

Watch & Listen LIVE