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'I couldn't find home': Once missing 90-year old Stockton woman wants to educate others

90-year old Betsy Brotby went missing for 28 hours after driving on an errand in Stockton. She's telling her story in hopes others can learn.

STOCKTON, Calif. — 90-year old Betsy Brotby is right back where she wants to be in her North Stockton home, hanging with her dogs Mya, Gracie and Nino. But, she went missing for 28 anxious hours, Sunday.

"Terrifying, one word. To be driving and be lost when you know it's your town. I couldn't find home," said Brotby, a retired secretary who worked at San Joaquin Delta College.

Brotby left home around noon Sunday and drove to the Trinity Parkway shopping area in North Stockton. She had somehow ended up in Altaville, near Angels Camp, and then to El Dorado Hills just east of Sacramento.

She then headed west again before running out of gas late Monday afternoon in downtown Sacramento.

"Fortunately right by an automotive mechanic foreign car repair place and the good samaritan that came out and saw her, she was blocked in the middle of the road, and helped her get the side of the road and invited her in," said daughter Lee Shea. "We are lucky, so lucky and know that other times that hasn't worked out for other people."

Brotby only remembers bits and pieces of her journey, like meeting "nice people" and driving around snow.

But, she admits she noticed becoming forgetful more often about a year ago when she was having trouble driving to her dentist.

"I suppose I should say we ought to quit driving earlier, but I wasn't about to say that," said Brotby.

That begs the question: How do you begin a conversation with an aging loved one whose memory is declining?

"If you approach it with empathy and respect that the older adult is likely to respond much better," said Sarah Lock, senior vice president for Policy and Brain Health for AARP and executive director for the Global Council on Brain Health.

Lock had to take care of her own parents diagnosed with dementia. She says first, pay close attention to any behavioral changes.

"If they start to become withdrawn or having trouble figuring things out that they would never have in the past," said Lock.

She also suggests having a conversation that's not confrontational, but inclusive.

"You need to be responsible, you need to help your parent. But, if you do it in such a way that robs them of their dignity, you're setting yourself and them up for failure," said Lock.

Brotby gives her own advice for those hesitant to help their aging loved ones.

"Just speak up. And for the aged mother or whatever, listen, don't be stubborn and I'm know for being stubborn," said Brotby. 

Shea is still surprised by what happened and urges people in similar situations to listen to their warning. 

"This has been so eye opening for us and anybody else that listens that if there are signs pay attention to them," said Shea.

After her frightening ordeal, Betsy has decided to hang up her car keys for good. From now on, her daughters will take over the driving duties.

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