Police: missing Lancaster Co. man died after wandering off, spending night outside

An elderly Lancaster County man was found dead in a field this morning after spending the night outside, Southern Regional Police Department said Thursday.

Police say John Kilheffer, who would have turned 88 years old tomorrow, was is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. He had been missing from his home in Conestoga Township since 12:30 p.m. yesterday.

“At the height of the search we had approximately 80 firefighters and 40 civilians looking for Mr. Killheffer,” said Chief John Fiorill of Southern Regional Police. “The conditions were so bad that we started to have search groups that were not familiar with the area misplaced and we actually had to go look for them.”

A group found Killheffer at 9:49 a.m. this morning in a field on his farm at 1298 Long Lane.

“The paramedics checked his vital signs and there was none. He was deceased,” said Chief Fiorill. “It's obvious the weather conditions were too extreme for the gentleman to survive the evening with the snow, the wind.”

Kilheffer was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association it is not uncommon for those suffering from the disease to wander off.

“Roughly about 67 percent of the population that has Alzheimer's will wander,” said Candy Yingling, Alzheimer's Association. “They may think they need to go to work or get home or go do something.”

The Alzheimer's Association encourages families with loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia to sign up for their Medic Alert Safe Return program. It allows families to register information about their loved ones online that can help emergency workers and others in the community find them if they wander off.

“Nothing is full proof,” said Yingling. “We do have information that can help families take some preventative measures, and also give them some tips.”

To learn more about Medic Alert Safe Return can call 1-800-272-3900 or log on at http://www.alz.org/safereturn

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