WEST L.A. — For eight long days, Santa Monican John McInally Jr. and his family combed area streets looking for their Alzheimer’s disease stricken father who had wandered away from his Venice home on June 10.
Calls to area hospitals yielded nothing. The Los Angeles Police Department and even the FBI got involved and still nothing. As the days lingered on McInally Jr. grew increasingly worried that he may have seen the last of his aging father, John McInally Sr.
As Father’s Day approached and the search became frantic McInally Jr. received a call Thursday from LAPD Detective Ralph Bassett telling him that his father had been found, safe and in the hands of staff at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West L.A.
“He’s not a veteran so I figured he wouldn’t be there,” McInally Jr. said of the VA Hospital. “It was the only hospital I didn’t call.
“I just never thought of calling there.”
Once McInally Jr. got down to the VA campus he learned that his father, who had wandered off from the Venice home he shares with his wife while she was busy with house chores, was discovered in the parking lot of the hospital a full day after he came up missing.
Once hospital staff located him they guessed that he was a veteran and promptly prepared a room where McInally Sr. stayed for the next eight days while his identify was researched, a spokesman for the VA said.
McInally Sr., who has lost much of his ability to converse, gave staff members scant details about himself and wasn’t carrying proper identification. Fingerprints were taken, but no match was found.
For days law enforcement searched for McInally Sr. while simultaneously VA officials sought the identity of a man they dubbed John Doe. Finally, VA investigator Dennis Troy finally matched the missing man’s height and weight to advisories sent out by the LAPD and determined that he had a match.
A call was made to LAPD’s Bassett who in turn contacted McInally Jr. with the good news. Not knowing what to expect, he arrived at the VA to discover that his father was no worse for wear and appeared to be in perfect health. He said that his leg muscles were a bit weakened from the prolonged bed rest, but was otherwise fine.
McInally Jr. said that his parents often travel to UCLA for various doctor visits and may have headed that direction due to his familiarity with the area. McInally Jr. theorizes that his father simply boarded a bus and made his way toward the VA where he was ultimately found.
“The VA gets a bad rap sometimes, but they were very loving and kind to my father,” Mcinally Jr. said, “and for that I’m thankful.”
The disappearance of McInally Sr. highlights the unique challenge of ensuring that the identity of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease is readily available. McInally Jr. said that he is currently looking into ID bracelets and the like to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
“If we had something like that we would have connected within days,” McInally Jr. said. “For now, we’re putting double-sided locks on all the doors so he doesn’t sneak off again.”