Last month saw some good news for seniors and their families in the state of New York. State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on his website that he “signed a law to create a statewide alert system for missing vulnerable adults, similar to the nationwide Amber Alert program, which will help authorities locate cognitively impaired persons who go missing.” By signing this law Governor Cuomo added New York to the growing list of states with similar programs in place to help find and protect seniors with Alzheimer’s who may wander away from their homes in confusion.
The first state-wide public notification system for vulnerable adults, sometimes called “Silver Alert” programs, was passed in Oklahoma in 2006. Since then 28 states have joined Oklahoma in passing Silver Alert legislation (or something similar) and five states have some kind of vulnerable adult alert legislation pending.
According to Governor Cuomo’s announcement, New York’s new Amber Alert for Seniors program “provides for the rapid public dissemination of information regarding adults with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive impairments who go missing. Under the new law, the same Amber Alert mechanisms used to find missing children will be activated for missing vulnerable adults, including the printing and distribution of photographs and posters, a toll-free twenty-four hour hotline, a curriculum for training law enforcement personnel, and assistance for returning missing vulnerable adults who are located out of state.”
New York’s program—and the similar programs in all participating states—are a comfort to the families of seniors afflicted with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Too often we read news stories about seniors who have wandered away from their homes and are not found until it’s too late. If you worry that your elderly relative may be at risk for wandering, check the laws of your state to find out which programs are available to you and how to enroll (if necessary).
If your state does NOT have a program in place you may want to consider enrolling your elderly loved one in the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® program. To learn more about this nation-wide emergency response service click here.