They can’t put the feeling into words.
Joe Giasone takes a stab at it.
“A feeling of real emptiness,” he says. “I still get choked up thinking about it.”
The traumatic experience Joe and his wife, Barbara, experienced 12 years ago explains why, this Saturday, Barbara will find herself running a booth that is making its debut at the Fullerton Police Department’s 4th-annual Open House.
The booth will promote the Fullerton Return Home Registry, an innovative program that isn’t new to the PD but that, under Giasone’s leadership, is making a big push to get residents to voluntarily sign up loved ones who need care but who have a tendency to leave their surroundings without anyone’s knowledge.
Barbara Giasone, 73, is a former veteran newspaper reporter and well-known Fullerton resident who serves as a senior volunteer on the PD’s RSVP team. RSVP stands for Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol.
At the Open House, which is free to the public and runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at PD headquarters at 237 W. Commonwealth Ave., Giasone will be encouraging loved ones of memory care patients , those diagnosed with dementia, autism or another often debilitating condition to get their relative on the Return Home Registry.
It’s free, it’s voluntary and the information is confidential and used only by police officers to more quickly find your vulnerable loved one should he or she go missing.
Twelve years ago, Barbara Giasone’s mother-in-law, Rose — Joe’s mom — slipped out of a board-and-care facility in Fullerton undetected.
At the time 89 years old and suffering from dementia, Rose was spotted by an Orange PD patrol officer. She was standing against a wall on a busy street under a 5 Freeway off-ramp about 2 miles away her board-and-care.
She had no ID.
The officer eventually dropped her off at a psychiatric facility in Santa Ana.
Rose had been missing for a few hours when the Giasones found out.
For several hours throughout the night, they scoured the area for her, checking out favorites spots that Rose, an avid walker, liked to visit, including a hardware store and her church.
They were beside themselves — consumed by fear and the feeling of utter emptiness that Joe Giasone described.
After a sleepless night, Barbara Giasone called the Orange County chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, which eventually was able to track Rose down at the psychiatric facility in Santa Ana.
“She acted like nothing had happened,” Joe Giasone, 81, recalled of the reunion.
Rose Giasone lived seven more years and died just before her 97th birthday.
The goal of the Fullerton Return Home Registry is to reunite families as soon as possible.
Once a person is on the registry, Fullerton PD officers are able to search a database that provides them with the vital information (and a picture) needed to help them locate and return the family member.
Currently there are about 50 people on the registry — all of them put on it by officials at assisted living facilities. The push now, Barbara Giasone said, is to make the general public more aware of the registry and to get their loved ones signed up.
“It’s important to have a safe return as soon as possible,” said Giasone, an RSVP for the Fullerton PD for four years.
“The anxiety loved ones feel when someone goes missing is indescribable,” Joe Giasone said.
For more information about the Fullerton Return Home Registry, call 714-738-6836. And be sure to attend this Saturday’s Open House at the FPD. In addition to various booths, visitors will be able to tour the station and enjoy static displays of police and SWAT vehicles.
See form below. Click on it, print it and fill it out to take to the Fullerton Return Home Registry booth at Saturday’s Open House.