Kathy Marchant wants to thank the people of West End for their tremendous response when her partner, 75-year-old Jim Butler, went missing at the Thomas Dixon Centre on Saturday, 12 August. Jim, who has dementia, was found at the Gap police station six hours later.

An anaesthetist in his working life and active in the community, Jim was diagnosed with dementia two years ago.

“He is very bright, very conscientious, and extremely hard working, with lots of interests. Over the years his interests have included gardening, photography, birdwatching, bush-walking, and architecture.”

“We knew something was seriously wrong when he started getting days and times mixed up’, Kathy said.

Jim’s dementia has been a challenge for Kathy especially as Jim wants to be on the move all the time.

“He would walk out at night in the local area, so I started having to lock the doors and hide the keys. But there’s 24 hours in a day and it’s very hard to keep track of someone. I had an Apple Watch and he’s mobile, but you’ve got to make sure that they’re charged and on him when he goes anywhere.”

Jim with Kathy

Jim did not use public transport before his diagnosis but now loves it. Kathy said he has ridden on CityCats until now, but she thinks he rode the buses last Saturday. 

“Brisbane City Council has been so helpful when he decides to ride the city cats; the drivers know him and we are able to alert them because he has a tracker,” Kathy said.

Jim still loves music and attending performances, and on the 12th a carer took him to the Ballet Centre to watch the Queensland Ballet Academy Gala. But at the 3:00 pm interval, Jim slipped away, and as he is not a local to West End, the panic set in to find him.

Kathy thanks the Police, the ballet staff and audience, the traders along Montague Road, and the locals who were out in numbers for the Matilda game, and helped with the search.

Ballet Centre staff reviewed their CCTV files to see if they could see where Jim went, and they halted the performance to see if he was still in the auditorium.

“There were dozens and dozens of people out looking, and most were in this area [West End].

The family alerted the CityCats and checked the places Jim used to live, and the Police notified the traders along Montague Road.

“Our daughter put out a call for help on Facebook and we were flooded with people going out looking. Jim went to Gregory Terrace school and the year 12 boys from that school were out in force looking for him.”

“They were all excellent and I’d really like to thank them all,” Kathy said.

“Jim was out enjoying the early crowds already gathering in the streets to celebrate the Matilda’s game in the early evening. He is very social, likes people, and was always a kind person.

“This Shakespeare quote [from Julius Caesar], I think, sums him up’:

" He only in a general honest thought
And common good to all made one of them.
His life was gentle and the elements
So mixed in him that nature might stand up
And say to all the world “This was a man.”

A long six hours after going missing, Jim was picked up at the Gap police station at nine o’clock that night.

“So, he caught buses. He said he didn’t feel lost.”

“Primarily I want to thank the people of the Gap because Jim was found by a kind local and when they established that he was confused and didn’t know his surname or address, they took him to the local police station who contacted the family.”

 “And Jim said the policeman was so nice. “He shook my hand and asked me all about myself”. Jim said he really liked talking to him.”


Patience and Respect

Kathy said the policeman’s response is a crucial lesson in what a big difference people can make if they show respect and interest in others. She says people can help in these situations if they are patient and respectful to everybody, especially those demonstrating odd behaviour.

“That could be you one day, and how would you like to be treated? With respect and kindness, just to understand what an incredible difference that can make.”

And Kathy encourages people to donate to research because dementia is still not a fully understood disease.

Dementia Australia provides advice on how to communicate with people with dementia, and how to establish dementia friendly communities.

“Also, there was a flyer in the police station that was very good and was about treating people with respect.”

“It can be a long and lonely journey as a carer, and it made so much difference to feel that people were so willing to assist.”

Kathy has asked people to email her if they remember seeing Jim on the 12th.


All images supplied