Missing woman, 53, found after 5 days
Woman with low IQ eventually found 4km away from home
He started looking for his 53-year-old sister last Thursday, combing through countless void decks and coffee shops in Bishan, Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio.
Mr Bernard Fan, a 57-year-old trader, feared the worst for his low-IQ sister: She could be starving or had got into an accident.
But shortly after midnight on Tuesday, at a senior citizens' corner in Ang Mo Kio, Mr Fan met retiree Peter Seow who recalled seeing Madam Fan Lai Meng.
Buoyed by the news, Mr Fan, who was joined in the search by his wife and her cousin, continued looking in the area.
At 3am, the trio found Madam Fan at a coffee shop in Ang Mo Kio - about 4km away from their home in Bishan.
Mr Fan told The New Paper: "She was sitting alone at the coffee shop, looking dazed.
"When my wife called out her name, she jumped with joy and ran to hug my wife.
"She was acting like a long-lost child who was finally found."
Madam Fan, who has an IQ of 51, had less than $10 on her. She has high blood pressure and needs medication.
She does not own a mobile phone but she carries a copy of her identity card and Mr Fan's contact details.
Mr Fan said his sister appeared to be healthy and was found with a denim jacket, which she said she had picked up from a void deck.
He said: "I was so relieved to see her. She was very excited and happy to get into the car and go home. After she showered and had a change of clothes, we took her to eat fishball noodles at a 24-hour coffee shop. "
Mr Fan last saw his sister last Wednesday night.
She usually wakes up earlier than him and would head to the coffee shop in the next block for breakfast.
Mr Fan started searching for his sister when she did not return home by 11am the next day.
He said: "I initially thought she would be found quickly, but I became very worried by the fourth day.
"I asked everyone I saw."
The first three days, Mr Fan searched for his sister by car but realised that he had to widen his search by asking around.
He posted an appeal on citizen journalism site Stomp, got on his bicycle and showed passers-by the Stomp page.
He also made a police report.
Mr Fan said: "There were several people who said they could have seen her, but they weren't sure and their details did not seem to add up.
"For instance, someone told me that she saw my sister asking for the price of flowers."
So, it's understandable that Mr Fan was initially sceptical when Mr Seow told him that he had seen Madam Fan.
"I asked him six times if he really saw my sister. I hope he wasn't offended," said Mr Fan.
Mr Seow, 59, recalled seeing Madam Fan at the senior citizens' corner on Tuesday afternoon.
He told TNP: "She was acting strangely, hiding behind the wall while I was chatting. I remembered her because of her white hair."
Mr Seow, who is also the chairman of Teck Ghee Zone D Residents' Committee (RC), retrieved closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of Madam Fan walking past the senior citizens' corner.
He enlisted the help of RC member Helen Tay, who went through the CCTV footage to confirm if it was really Madam Fan.
Mr Fan said: "I was really touched that they took the effort to check their CCTV and to send me a message at 1am,"
His sister has not been able to relate much of her five-day adventure but told her family that she was given free beehoon by "aunties at the coffee shop".
Mr Fan, who has four brothers, said he is the closest to his sister. Their parents are dead.
He said: "She is like a child. I feel sorry for her. She is my responsibility. I'll make sure that she is accompanied when she leaves the home in future."
She was acting like a long-lost child who was finally found.
- Mr Bernard Fan, on finding his sister, Madam Fan Lai Meng
He wants to give sister freedom but...
His wish is for his sister to lead as much a normal life as possible.
Which is why Mr Bernard Fan does not lock Madam Fan Lai Meng up at home.
Madam Fan, described by her brother as friendly and chatty, usually goes for breakfast on her own to a coffee shop at the block next to theirs in Bishan Street 12.
She also likes to go to the nearby Junction 8 shopping mall to visit a friend who works there.
To make sure that Madam Fan does not feel cooped up at home, Mr Fan's son also takes her along when he plays basketball at a nearby court. She would play card games on her own while waiting for him.
Madam Fan attends church with Mr Fan's family every Sunday and is included in all family outings.
Mr Fan said: "I don't want to restrict her freedom and I want her to be independent."
But since the latest incident, he intends to take extra precautions such as making her wear a GPS tracker when she goes out.
Madam Fan goes missing about once a month but is usually found within a day.
She has a "help card" with Mr Fan's details and would usually return home on her own or have a passer-by contact Mr Fan.
He will no longer give her the flat keys so that she can't leave home on her own. He will also restrict the amount of cash she carries.
Mr Fan explained: "My wife and I work from home, so there is always someone around."
TIPS TO PREVENT WANDERING
- Identify the most likely time of the day that wandering may occur and plan activities for that time to reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness.
- Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation.
- Consider a tracking device.
- Keep a recent, close-up photo and updated medical information on hand to give to the police.
- Know your neighbourhood and pinpoint dangerous areas such as bodies of water, dense foliage, tunnels, bus stops and roads with heavy traffic.
Source: Alzheimer's Association website