Silver Alert and Wandering Emergencies

Wandering is a big concern for many caregivers, and a person with dementia who becomes lost while driving can put themselves and others in great danger. Though not all people with dementia wander and become lost, half of those who do suffer serious injury or death if not found in the first 24 hours after their elopement. The Texas Silver Alert Network is a mechanism put in place by the Texas Department of Public Safety to recover missing seniors with impaired mental conditions.

The network is comprised of:
• Local, state, and federal law enforcement
• Participating media outlets
• Texas Department of Transportation Highway Signs
• Texas Lottery Commission
• Independent Bankers Association of Texas

This can be a very useful resource to reconnect caregivers with lost loved ones, but it can’t be accessed unless certain criteria are met. Those are:
• That the missing person be 65 or older
• That their domicile is in Texas
• That they have a diagnosed impaired mental condition, and therefore their disappearance poses a threat to their health and safety
• Is it confirmed that an investigation has taken place verifying that the senior citizen’s disappearance is due to their mental condition, and alternative reasons for the disappearance have been ruled out?
• Is the Silver Alert request within 72 hours of the senior citizen’s disappearance?
• Is there sufficient information available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the senior citizen?

It’s important to note that in order for law enforcement to verify the missing person’s diagnosis, they will need medical documentation on physician’s letterhead, indicating the impaired mental condition, date of diagnosis, patient’s name, with the physician’s signature. This document is useful in many scenarios, and should be kept in a safe and accessible place. Items to prepare in advance of a wandering emergency might include:
• Medical documentation of the person’s diagnosis
• A recent photo of your loved one
• Current medical records
It could be helpful to alert your local law enforcement and neighbors to your loved one’s condition, and the possibility that they might wander. Supply them with your contact information, the person’s name and any pertinent information about their behaviors or other medical conditions, perhaps written on the back of a current photo of the person.

In preparation for an emergency like this, you could enroll your loved one in a program like Medic Alert + Safe Return (which provides ID jewelry for the person with dementia and their caregiver and connects them to 24-hour nationwide emergency response service) or Comfort Zone (a GPS location management service). Some caregivers install GPS tracking devices on the car the person with dementia uses. Others put a piece of paper with information about the person and their cognitive impairment and the caregiver’s contact information inside the person’s wallet.

It might be helpful to brainstorm in advance places your loved one might attempt to wander to, such as a former residence or place of work. Also keep in mind that wandering generally follows the direction of the person’s dominant hand.

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