ROCKFORD — A search for a Rockford area elderly woman who suffers from dementia has ended. A local resident found Joan Alice Atkins, 82, alive and well Tuesday morning.
According to Surry County Emergency Services Director John Shelton, a manager at the Rockford General Store awoke Tuesday morning thinking, “there’s one place I need to check.” Shelton said the manager looked into the wood-line behind the store and spotted Atkins.
Shelton said when he and other officials responded to the scene they found Atkins in good health. However, the 82-year-old who walked with a cane said she had fallen and complained of pain in her shoulder. “She was really in pretty good shape,” Shelton commented.
Shelton said after a difficult extrication process which involved cutting down trees so a vehicle could reach the woman’s location, Atkins was transported to Northern Hospital of Surry County, where her apparent injuries were treated.
Shelton also said his department will work with family members and hospital staff in an attempt to find a placement in an assisted living setting. “She clearly suffers from dementia, and we don’t want this to happen again,” said Shelton.
Prior to Tuesday morning, Shelton said Atkins was last seen on Saturday. The EMS director said he and other authorities can’t be certain whether Atkins left her home on Saturday or Sunday.
According to Shelton, family members discovered Atkins was missing on Sunday and searched until about 6 p.m. that day. Shelton said the family members then reported her missing and his department, the Dobson Rescue Squad, Mountain Park Rescue Squad, Pilot Mountain Rescue Squad and South Surry, Central Surry, CC Camp and Fall Creek volunteer fire departments began searching.
Shelton also said five search dogs from the Triad Search Group and a N.C. Highway Patrol helicopter were used in the search, which lasted from Sunday until 2 a.m. Monday and then picked back up later Monday morning. Shelton said officials were preparing for another day of searching when Atkins was found.
Shelton described the search for Atkins as having “an excellent turnout,” and extended his thanks to those in the community who aided in the search effort. “We had about 110 people searching for her. That’s a lot — especially for a holiday (Labor Day),” said Shelton. “We had a lot of good friends helping us out there.”
Andy Winemiller can be reached at 336-415-4698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.