Missing Elderly Couple Drives for 5 Days (Through 3 States) After Forgetting Their Way Home

Tony and Delores Amaral have been found safe after getting lost and driving for five days, through three states

Delores and Tony AmaralCredit: Courtesy Lisa Oelerich
Photo: Courtesy Lisa Oelerich

An elderly couple has been found safe after driving for five days, through three states, when they couldn’t remember their way home, the pair’s daughter confirms to PEOPLE.

Police found Tony and Delores Amaral in Atlanta on Tuesday after what began as a quick trip to the hospital landed the couple states away because they weren’t able to remember the way back to their East Tennessee home, their daughter, Lisa Oelerich, told WBIR.

“It looks like one of them had fallen at home,” Oelerich said of her parents. “One of them got in the car to take the other to UT Medical Center. They wound up in Chattanooga. Then from Chattanooga they wound up in [Middlesboro], Kentucky, then from Kentucky they wound up outside Atlanta.”

The Sevier County couple, both in their mid-80s, traveled hundreds of miles before police managed to track them to Atlanta using bank transactions, according to the station.

The days-long journey has taken a toll on the couple’s health, and Oelerich said it’s clear that they struggle with memory loss.

“My mom is doing much better today, my dad is still not so good,” Oelerich tells PEOPLE of her parents’ condition. “They have been to the doctor. Lots of tests being run and we are working with their doctor and looking into next steps.”

She adds: “[We] are going to throw our efforts into to getting family members the help they need. We are getting my folks taken care of.”

The couple’s journey only ended when Tony spotted an officer doing a routine traffic stop and asked her for directions. Otherwise, Oelerich told WBIR, the couple may still be driving. She told the station that it’s a “miracle” her parents were found.

“My parents were not diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s [disease] so we are just learning about memory loss and things family members should think about when signs appear,” the concerned daughter adds to PEOPLE. “It is all overwhelming.”

The Amarals’ story could have ended very differently. Tragically in March, the wife of a Nobel Prize-winning chemist was found dead 200 miles away from where they live after they got lost going to the airport.

Professor Ei-ichi Negishi, 82, and his wife Sumire Negishi, 80, were reported missing in Indiana but the following day when police discovered the professor wandering along a road in Illinois. Authorities later located the body of his wife.

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