It was cold and rainy outside of O’Shea-Hoey Funeral Home in Astoria last Monday. A row of empty mahogany chairs were slowly filled up by incoming visitors as the Arabadjis family cried outside. A family portrait and a picture of 63-year-old Philip Arabadjis sat on top of a Robin egg-blue coffin. The words “Beloved Father & Husband” were strewn across a bouquet of white flowers.
Arabadjis left his apartment in Astoria on the night of Feb. 12. Surveillance cameras at his apartment complex recorded him walking outside and into the street in his barefeet. The night that he went missing was one of the coldest nights in February.
He had a history of Schizophrenia and diabetes and had recently been showing early signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia since he first wandered off in December. Back then, he was found within 24 hours. This time, he went missing for two months.
His 33-year-old daughter Heather, a teacher, told Pix 11 News that he most likely wouldn’t remember his name, let alone know that his family was searching for him. Heather, along with a team of friends and volunteers, searched every hospital and homeless shelter in the five boroughs for her father. She worked closely with Detective Velez of New York City’s Missing Persons Squad to find him and created the Facebook page “FindPhil” to document her daily search activities. She continuously posted missing posters around Astoria, Long Island City, and Brooklyn and offered a $10,000 reward to anyone that knew his whereabouts.
Arabadjis’s official case report was released by the NYPD Missing Person Squad on Feb. 13. The circumstances on his case report state:
“He was last seen leaving his apartment complex with a denim jacket, black sweat pants, and no shoes. He suffers from Schizophrenia, Diabetes, COPD, and shows signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. He has no ID on him and will not be familiar with his name or where he lives. He is very lost and confused.”
The official case report was issued by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System on Feb. 20.
The Alzheimer’s Association said that as of 2015, 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s America 60 to 70 percent of people with Alzheimer’s wander away from home at least once.
Executive Vice President, Director, Programs & Services at the Alzheimer’s Association Jed Levine said that most people with Alzheimer’s that go missing are typically found soon after wandering, but it is not uncommon for them to end up in more serious situations.
“Close to 47 percent of people who go missing who are cognitively impaired, if not found in 24 hours, they’re either never found or found seriously injured,” Levine said.
Levine said that the number of wandering adults with Alzheimer’s is increasing because the number of people with the disease is increasing.
“The baby boom generation is aging and people are living longer,” he said. “We alone dealt with over 300 cases of missing people. It is a growing problem.”