Suddenly Gone: Missing Elderly and What to do.
You’ve probably seen or heard of a Silver Alert. It is a radio, television or highway sign message informing you that you should be on the lookout for a missing elderly person who has wandered away, on foot or by vehicle. Unfortunately, the situation is not uncommon. but the good news is that Silver Alert systems do work. The eligibility criteria for the Alert programs vary from state to state. In Texas, a Silver Alert may be issued for a missing elderly person who is 65 or older with a diagnosed impaired mental condition. In the first year of the Texas Silver Alert program in 2007 – 2008, 48 of the 52 missing seniors were located safely, according to the Texas Dept. of Public Safety.
Imagine that your loved one is suddenly missing. You might be with them in a store, in parking lot, even in your own home. And, you look around, and they are gone. The shock, the fright, and the guilt that scene brings to a caregiver is overwhelming.
What should you do? Right now, immediately?
Experts on wandering patients advise that the caregiver in this situation should search the surrounding area. If you are in a store or public place, see if a security officer there can help you search. Ask those around you in a public place what they might have noticed.
If wandering patients are not found within 15 minutes the caregiver should immediately call 911. Ask for help in locating a “vulnerable adult” who has a medical condition. The police will ask you to complete a missing person report. They will notify all other authorities and media outlets to broadcast the alert.
Generally, the wandering person is found within a mile and a half of the place they left.
Preparing for an Incident
Caregivers can do a few things to prepare for a wandering incident.
- First, make a list of people to call on for help, and keep their phone numbers available.
- If the patient has access to a vehicle, and might try to drive, then be able to give the license plate number, year, make and model of the car.
- Keep a current photo and medical information for the patient easily available to give to the police. Keep a list of medications the person takes regularly.
- Know the places where the person might go, and what dangers might be in your area such as busy streets, bodies of water, train tracks, etc.
- In your neighborhood, ask neighbors and friends to watch for the patient walking alone and to notify you immediately if they see the patient wandering.
Don’t hesitate to call 911 and ask for help immediately. Fortunately, most Silver Alerts result in locating the person and finding that they are safe. If you are a caregiver for a patient who has dementia or Alzheimer’s, you should realize that the patient is at risk for wandering behavior. Take their safety seriously.