Facebook, Alzheimer's Association helped locate missing Elmhurst couple

July 22, 2013 (ELMHURST, Ill.)

Vernon and Elaine Schweisthal are back home safe after a unexpected road trip that took them hundreds of miles away.

The couple has lived in the same Elmhurst house for all 64 years of their marriage. They never go too far, which was supposed to be the plan when the Schweistals were invited to meet friends for lunch last Friday.

"They wanted us to come to their house, we looked but couldn't find it," said Vernon Schweisthal.

So they kept driving looking for it. Eighty-nine-year old Vernon has a mild form of dementia, 85-year-old Elaine was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a couple years ago. The Schweisthal's family checks on the couple several times a day. They knew something was wrong when the Schweisthal's had not returned by Friday night.

"Once we came here and looked through the house, they weren't anywhere to be found," said Bill Byerley, grandson.

And that is when grandson Bill Byerly and daughter-in-law Nicole Spatafore sprang into action. After reporting the couple missing, they contacted the Alzheimer's Association, which provided resources and advice.

"Stay by the phone, look ...stay in the house," said Melissa Tucker, Alzheimer's Association.

They did that and more. Byerly created a website and a Facebook page. Social media generated so many good leads, the family knew the elderly couple was still alive and on the move by Saturday night.

By Sunday morning, a Facebook post helped find the Schweisthal's car in a corn field in Princeton, Illinois. They had run out of gas and were dehydrated, but otherwise OK.

"They are hearty people, they will be with us for a long time," said Nicole Spatafore, relative.

The Schweisthal's family does not believe the couple had any food or water while they were lost for two days. Physically, doctors gave them a clean bill of health.

While social media was a huge help, the Alzheimer's Association encourages people to enroll in its medic alert safe return program.

Copyright © 2024 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.