The body of 88-year-old Mount Doran man, Albert Smith, has been found near Ballarat more than six months after disappearing from his aged care facility in an attempt to walk home.
It is alleged that Mr. Smith, who went missing in early October, left the facility without telling anyone and that he was in the process of recovering from a medical condition when he decided to go.
A campaign launched by Albert Smith’s family and the police in early October did offer some clues as to the potential whereabouts of Mr. Smith when it was revealed that a young woman was believed to have given him a lift from Ballan to Mount Egerton.
Sadly, Mr. Smith’s body was found in bushland near the Ballarat area on Monday morning off Yendon-Egerton Road, with police deeming the circumstances surrounding his death non-suspicious.
It is believed that Mr. Smith was not living with dementia, and was actually suffering from a number of ailments that required medication
In an interview with the ABC, Mr. Smith’s daughter, Wendy Smith, gave an insight into the nature of her father and the circumstances that may have led to this tragedy.
“Towards the end and in the lead-up to this he didn’t really have a good understanding of his limitations,” said Ms. Smith.
“That’s all he wanted to do, was to get home, but with his health and physical condition at the time, we knew he would be incapable of doing that. Unfortunately, that’s what happened.”
Mr. Smith has been described as extremely strong-willed and determined by his family and he was also known to hitchhike, it was also alleged that Mr. Smith was sighted after his disappearance at Morrisons Cemetery – a place where Mr. Smith was an unofficial caretaker for several years.
While the discovery of the missing grandfather’s body is obviously still devastating for the family, Wendy Smith revealed that there was a sense of relief with knowing what happened to Albert.
Albert Smith’s wife died in 2007, and the discovery of his remains will now give the Smith family the opportunity to bury their loved one alongside his wife in a nearby cemetery.
“We were super distressed in those first weeks and months and then it was [about] coming to terms with the realisation that we were not going to find dad alive and then the realisation that we might not ever find dad,” said Wendy.
“People keep talking about closure, and as much as I hate that word I’ve got a better understanding of that now — I think we have got some closure.
“There will be some questions as to why he was where he was, but even so, at least we know where he was now.
Albert Smith was a resident at Ballan District Health, and Wendy Smith said that she hoped that the facility had improved its safety processes since her father’s disappearance by doing better mental health assessments and putting alarms on exit doors.
Ms. Smith also made it clear that the Smith family doesn’t “lay blame on anyone” for her father’s disappearance, and that the family knows that aged care is currently underfunded.
Ballan District Health, CEO, Shawn Lee, revealed that staff at the organisation were upset after hearing that Mr. Smith’s body had been found, and passed on the thoughts of himself and the Ballan Health staff to Mr. Smith’s family.