Monday, December 22, 2008

Florida's Silver Alert system for missing seniors is a good model for the nation

We think: Florida's Silver Alert system for missing seniors is a good model for the nation --

We think: Florida's Silver Alert system for missing seniors is a good model.

As many as 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Ten million baby boomers will develop the progressive brain disorder. And 60 percent of its victims will wander from their homes or places of care at some point, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

These troubling statistics make the case for a system to locate individuals with Alzheimer's or other cognitive impairments who go missing -- a Silver Alert, like the Amber Alert for missing children.

In October, following the lead of some other states, Gov. Charlie Crist created a Silver Alert program for Florida, where almost a quarter of the population is over 60. The program draws on the resources of state and local law-enforcement to alert officers, the news media and the public to missing seniors with cognitive impairments. If a vehicle is involved, information can appear on highway message boards.

Florida officials say that all two-dozen seniors for whom alerts have been issued so far have been located. While critics worry that too-frequent highway messages could be overlooked by motorists, a panel will review the performance of the program next year and decide if changes are called for.

Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida is trying to expand the concept nationwide. After the U.S. House approved a bipartisan bill in September to provide federal grants to help states start Silver Alert programs, Mr. Martinez introduced a Senate version of the legislation with Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl.

The Senate bill got buried in the pileup at the end of this year's session. It deserves another chance to become law when Congress reconvenes in January.

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Silver Alert tracks missing seniors...

Silver Alert tracks missing seniors The Tennessean:

Silver Alert tracks missing seniors

It took only minutes for Morris Nelson to grab the keys to his Ford Explorer and drive away from his Mt. Juliet home, but it took his family and police 12 hours to find him.

And when they did, he was miles away, confused and frightened in a Pulaski, Tenn., neighborhood.

Nelson is one of the more than 100,000 Tennesseans living with Alzheimer's disease. Advocates for the aged hope Nelson and others like him will benefit from legislation being drafted now for a new Silver Alert program used to track missing senior citizens.

About a dozen states have started notification systems to help spread the word when senior citizens wander away on foot or by car. At least a dozen more, including Tennessee, are expected to follow suit within the next year.

Silver Alert programs are modeled after the Amber Alert program, which is used to find missing children. That program was named for a child who went missing.

'It's just as good an idea as the Amber Alert is,' said Jane Bradley, Nelson's daughter. 'Things are in place to do this. The need is going to grow for this. We've got so many people living so much longer and every time I turn around somebody else is suffering with dementia and Alzheimer's.'

More than 10 million baby boomers are expected to develop Alzheimer's disease. An additional 4 million will get some other form of dementia or cognitive impairment, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

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