Village thanks searchers

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FOUND: (From left) Senior Constable Tony Matheson, Senior Constable Pete Cunningham and Constable Hayden Robinson at search and rescue headquarters at Hood Aerodrome with a photo of Mrs Roberts.PHOTO/FILE
FOUND: (From left) Senior Constable Tony Matheson, Senior Constable Pete Cunningham and Constable Hayden Robinson at search and rescue headquarters at Hood Aerodrome with a photo of Mrs Roberts.PHOTO/FILE

Masterton's Metlifecare Wairarapa Village has praised community efforts in the overnight search to find their resident Roma Roberts.

Dr Roberts, 94, who has Alzheimers, wandered off from the rest home in Chapel St around 2pm on Sunday, prompting a search and rescue operation throughout the day and into the night.

Local residents, prompted by calls for help on social media, checked their own properties and took to the streets to check driveways and bushes.

Dr Roberts was found asleep the following morning in the laundry of a house on a property bordering the village.

Village manager Nick McGruddy said it was a distressing time for all their staff and residents "and more so for her family".

"Finding her and having her returned safely was a huge relief for us all.

"The response from our staff and the wider community was outstanding and we appreciate all those who gave of their time and effort to assist in the search."

The staff were aware within an hour that Dr Roberts, who lives in her own home in the village, was outside her normal routine.

He said they have had a full debrief on the incident and has thanked staff who stayed at work and gave their time to search the grounds, before joining in the wider coordinated search with police and LandSAR.

Posters on social media commented on how close Dr Roberts was to Metlifecare when she was found.

Mr McGruddy said there are limits on what their staff can do in searching private property.

"We are dependent on the co-ordination, resources and authorisation of the police to allow access to the property such as that where Roma was found.

"We are grateful that their resources and expertise resulted in her being found and returned home safely."

He said balancing between a resident's safety and their right to live life as independently as possible can be challenging.

"All our village residents are free to come and go as they please and we are aware of those who may need direction and assistance if they are planning to leave the village unaccompanied.

"The incident highlights the challenges of finding the balance between respecting the right of older New Zealanders to live their life as they choose and keeping them safe from harm.

"A very small percentage of older people do have their ability to appropriately assess risk so profoundly impaired that they are assessed as requiring care in a secure environment to protect them from harm to themselves or others.

"Thankfully, in this country, our human rights are well protected and such an assessment is not made lightly but after serious consideration."

He said the right to self-determination is one "we should all hold on to, regardless of age".

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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