SILVER ALERT ALARM

For missing adults over the age of 60 who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, there is a new program in Florida to find them quickly.

Silver Alerts,” managed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, alerts the public quickly about mentally impaired elderly who wander off. Florida has more than its share of elderly Americans, so this new Florida program is good news for many care givers.

The missing person must be age 60 or older and have diminished intellectual faculties. Younger people may qualify if they have irreversible mental deterioration and law enforcement has determined the individual lacks the capacity to consent.

Silver Alerts also contact the media, just like an Amber Alert, with a description of the vehicle, a tag number, and a description of the person.

And the Florida program sends an automated phone call to every resident within a one mile radius of the missing person’s home. So far 19 people have been found since Florida adopted the system in November.

Charlie Brownlee, 76, was one of them.

The man wandered away from his sister’s Miami home one day last month. Brownlee got behind the wheel of a car, even though he suffers from dementia. Apparently no one remembered to give Charlie his medication that day.

When family alerted police they immediately issued a Silver Alert and found Charlie on his way back to his own home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, thinking it wasn’t far away.

In the case of Brownlee, about 5,000 automated calls were made. If a missing person is behind the wheel, the Florida Department of Transportation flashes a physical description of the person on road signs, the kind that normally alert drivers to traffic detours and conditions.

Florida, Georgia and about a dozen other states have adopted similar programs and legislation is pending in Congress to create a national program.

With Florida a mecca for more than four million Americans over the age of 60, and about a half-million probable Alzheimer’s cases, this is a very valuable service for our vulnerable population.

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