Family of 89-year-old drowning victim calls for increased Alzheimer’s awareness

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indianapolis family called for increased awareness of safety risks associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease after a tragic incident on the city’s northwest side.

Ella Minor, 89, wandered off Friday morning and drowned in a retention pond several blocks from her home, near Georgetown Road and West 56th Street, relatives said.

Cameron Taylor, Minor’s son-in-law, reported finding her body several hours after she was last seen alive by a neighbor.

“I could see the tennis shoes I knew she wore and I immediately knew it was her,” Taylor told News 8. “I saw her shoes and I knew.”

Minor loved shoes and clothes, even after her Alzheimer’s symptoms began worsening several months before her death.

“She was very particular about her dress,” Taylor said, laughing. “Especially on Sundays for church. She always made sure that she was matching and her shoes were matching.”

Ella Minor, 89, loved getting dressed up for church, relatives said. (PHOTO: Cameron Taylor)

Photos provided by Minor’s family show the octogenarian dressed in bell-sleeved sheaths, floral blazers and ruffled skirt suits. A recent photo, taken in her living room, shows Minor in a purple A-line dress with a matching walking cane.

Her flair for color coordination and attention to detail were impressive, considering her vision; Minor was legally blind, relatives said.

“She probably couldn’t see the water before she fell in the pond,” Taylor told News 8. “I walked all around the edge. There’s quite an incline. [It’s] not real easy to keep one’s balance next to the water.”

Neighbors with backyards adjacent to the pond did not witness the accident, they told police.

Authorities were unable to confirm Minor’s time of death. Taylor suspected she drowned hours before relatives realized she was missing and urged other families to invest in tracking devices for loved ones with dementia.

“Even though she had never done this before, it behooves all of us — when we’re dealing with patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s — that we go to the extremes,” he said. “You just can’t anticipate what may happen. Do the very most and if it’s not needed, great.”

Project Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization founded in 1999, provides wrist and ankle bands with tracking devices for people of any age with Alzheimer’s, autism, PTSD and other conditions.

The group partners with local law enforcement agencies across the nation to reduce search and rescue times. Average rescue times in Hamilton County are 15 to 20 minutes, according to David McCormick, a Project Lifesaver coordinator.

Local partners in central Indiana include the Pike Township Fire Department, the agency that responded Friday afternoon with dive and rescue teams after Taylor reported finding Minor in the water.

She was not enrolled in Project Lifesaver’s location tracking program, according to relatives.

“We had no idea that they existed,” Taylor said. “It makes you wonder, ‘What if we had done this? What if we had done that? Maybe we could have done something different?'”

Minor beat cancer and defied the odds after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Taylor vowed to channel his grief over her “senseless” drowning death into warning other families about the risks of dementia.

“She was a great inspiration,” he said. 

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