Recent local events highlight two important safety issues. First, a missing vulnerable adult, especially one with dementia - should be reported to law enforcement as soon as possible. Let law enforcement decide when to use the tools available to locate the missing person.
One such tool is the Sliver Alert program. This program enables law enforcement to activate a widespread broadcast of information when a person with dementia is missing in an automobile. This includes highway signs and e-mail to the aging service network. The program also provides for follow-up by the State's 15 Memory Disorder Clinics, including the SMH Memory Disorder Clinic, to assist families after a Silver Alert by offering education, support and referral to community resources if needed.
Second, families must not ignore the difficult issue of driving when someone is diagnosed with an illness that affects their mental capacity. Contrary to jokes often heard about elderly drivers, most older drivers are safe drivers. They often restrict their own driving when disability strikes. However, when an individual has an illness that affects thinking, they often cannot see the changes affecting safety on the road. Families should start discussions about driving early - before illness strikes. The first discussion about driving should not start with "give me your key." Plan ahead regarding how to get around when driving is no longer safe. Investigate local resources (there are several), and be prepared. The recent Silver Alert activated in Sarasota County ended with the safe return of the individual involved. Unfortunately, as I have seen, this is not always the case.
Kathleen J Houseweart, MBA
Manager, Geriatric Services
Coordinator Memory Disorder Clinic
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System