After disappearing for 29 days, an elderly Florida woman was recently discovered near a forest where she had survived off discarded soda bottles and granola bars.
Seventy-four-year-old Traute Rankin reportedly had a mental illness that caused paranoia, according to her daughter, Renee Shelley. One day she wandered off, and after a few days of sleeping outside, she didn't return home. News reports said the woman had lived in the woods under a large palm tree in an area that was close to Citrus Boulevard in Florida and about 30 yards from the road. According to Shelley, Rankin survived off granola bars she had stashed in her purse. The “campsite” where she lived was strewn with plastic soda bottles and granola bar wrappers, as well as a plastic bag filled with leaves as a pillow.
Rankin was discovered lying near a parking lot at Walmart, where she had collapsed after trying to get something to drink from the store. She was found by a woman passing by, who called the police. She was then taken to the hospital where doctors noted she was severely dehydrated. Despite being dirty, confused, and dehydrated, Rankin’s health was in relatively good condition, police said. She is still in the hospital recovering.
Especially among older people, and those with dementia, wandering is a huge problem that could potentially be dangerous. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, three out of five Alzheimer’s patients will wander off at some point, especially if they have a more advanced form of the disorder. In order to prevent people with dementia from wandering, keep a list of telephone contacts to call if they disappear, and make sure neighbors, friends, and family are aware of their condition and to stop them if they are spotted wandering alone.