Have you ever walked from one room to another in your home and forgotten why you entered the room? Have you ever had a thought or idea and wanted to write it down and by the time you found paper and pen, you forgot what it was? Have you ever driven from point A to point B and not paid attention to how you got there? Have you ever gone for a walk and ended up on a new street and couldn’t get back to your starting point? If not you, do you have someone in your life who occasionally or often does one, some, or all of these things?
The obvious answer is that we are all aging and sometimes these things happen. Maybe it’s just because we are tired from a restless night’s sleep, not feeling well, distracted by the news, the weather or a chore, or just on a bit of overload from a busy schedule. Even as we personally age, we usually have someone in our lives who is older. Maybe that person is exhibiting these changes on a more extreme level. Are these signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s? What do we do to protect our loved ones, friends and family, when this happens? What do we do if an older person goes missing?
There is a new bill coming out of the State Legislature that will try to answer these questions. Senate Bill 1577, dubbed ‘Silver Alert,’ would create a new response protocol for finding vulnerable seniors who have gone missing. It is designed to help with these issues. It is modeled after ‘Amber Alert’ which we are all familiar with. Keeping seniors safe is often as simple as alerting and mobilizing law enforcement and the community. The bill directs law enforcement agencies to develop policies for responding to instances of missing seniors with mental impairments. New protocols will include training for officers, processes for reporting a missing senior and mechanisms for alerting the public.
The statistics can be scary. Currently there are about 80,000 Oregonians with Alzheimer’s, a number that is expected to climb to 110,000 by 2025. 60 percent of people with Alzheimer’s will wander from their home, often with debilitating or devastating consequences. The Silver Alert System is designed to provide the help and reassurance to anxious families that their missing seniors can be reunited with them without any harm.
If you need information on dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, please go to the Alzheimer’s Association of Oregon’s website, www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/safety, for resources and support. Here in Tualatin, for a local resource and support, I recommend Bill Cohen, Cohen Caregiving Support Consultants, LLC, (503) 522-8320, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.cohencaregivingsupport.com. He can help you navigate. You are not alone, nor is your loved one.