Wandering is a serious problem in the elderly population. In particular, those senior citizens with cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other mental disabilities that impact the brain’s memory centers, have a higher likelihood of wandering because they often have trouble remember where they are going, have poor orientation ability and are easily distracted. These same qualities contribute to the increased level of danger that cognitively impaired elderly people face when they wander and become lost. Reduced cognitive ability can greatly impact one’s ability to use survival skills; advanced age can as well.
Lost in Nature; Lost in the City
For instance, getting lost and ending up in the woods can leave a wanderer exposed to the elements, such as poor weather, intense sun exposure, and dramatic changes in temperature. There are wild animals and environmental hazards, upon which the wanderer could stumble. Roots that protrude upward from the ground could trip the lost person, or there might be unseen holes in the ground into which the wanderer might fall.
Even if the wanderer were not lost in the woods, and were lost in a city or urbanized area instead, he or she would still be engaging in unsafe wandering. The wanderer could wind up walking out into traffic, could get struck by a car, or could run into an unsavory sort of person who might take advantage of an apparently lost, obviously mentally diminished, elderly individual. There is also the risk of tripping over curbs or uneven pavement or sidewalk.
What is a Silver Alert?
Silver alerts are an alert system designed to locate missing elderly individuals through community effort and collaboration. Silver alerts are usually limited in geographical scope, i.e., issued only locally, unlike the amber alerts used for missing or kidnapped children, which are often issued across a cluster of states, or sometimes even nationwide. When an elderly person goes missing from a nursing home, care center, or private residence, concerned caretakers can contact local authorities to get a Silver Alert put out to the public. Silver alerts are circulated to a wide variety of media outlets. News and radio stations will broadcast the alert, and some local authorities even utilize emergency text messaging to get the alert out. The hope is that someone in the community has recently seen the missing elderly person and through the help of the community the missing individual will be found.
If your loved one has wandered away from a safe area, such as a personal residence or a nursing home, you should seek out local authorities and see about getting a silver alert put out as soon as possible. When a resident wanders away from a nursing home or long-term care facility, it is likely an indication that there is some sort of neglect happening at the home. Please reach out to the Rooth Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Law Firm online or by calling (800) 350-0646, if you are concerned about the care your loved one is receiving at his or her nursing home.
Linda, Silver Alerts, NC Missing Persons Organization, March 28, 2014