If you have driven on a Florida highway, you may have seen a sign above the road with the words “SILVER ALERT”. It may be followed with the description of a vehicle, an individual or both. What is this alert informing us of? The United States has instituted a public notification system to inform the public about missing persons. The Silver Alert system is used for missing senior citizens with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other mental disabilities in order to aid in locating them. In addition to the roadway signs, Silver Alerts may also use media outlets such as commercial radio stations, television stations, and cable television – to broadcast information about missing persons. When a missing senior is thought to have been lost on foot, Silver Alerts may also institute a Reverse 911 or other emergency notification systems to call residents of the neighborhood surrounding the missing person’s last known location. As the country’s elderly population grows, it is even more important for programs as these to be instituted. Research published by the Alzheimer’s Association shows that approximately six in ten dementia victims will wander off at least once. They may not remember their name or address and can become disoriented. If not found within 24 hours, up to half of wandering seniors with dementia suffer serious injury or death. The elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia may be prone to wandering due to confusion even in familiar areas such as their own home or senior community. Another cause of wandering is compulsion. The senior may have a compulsion to “be somewhere else” or “go somewhere else”. An elderly person may also wander due to a feeling of wanting to get home causing them to search from the home they have in mind. If we receive a Silver Alert call or see the sign as we drive, we can all do our part to help protect the seniors of our community.
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