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Silver Alerts in Indiana and Ways to Keep Family Members Safe

Indiana State Police say Silver Alerts are often times traced back to dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
Most Silver Alerts are a result of an elderly person wandering off by foot or car.
The state adopted the system in 2009 and law enforcement say it's been a success ever since.

Before the Silver Alert Bill was passed, Indiana law enforcement didn't have the ability to launch a nationwide search. Now, the system gives them extra eyes throughout the state.

"They saw the need to call on the citizens for their assistance," Clark Cottom said, Vigo County Sheriff's Chief Deputy. "And now we have a silver alert where we can ask citizens for their help in locating people."

Before a missing persons report can be elevated to a Silver Alert, law enforcement must first seek a family physician.

"We actually have to have a physician that will tell us that the person that is missing is an endangered adult and or they might be driving a vehicle creating a danger to the public," Cottom added.

They send their information to IDACS and Indiana State Police in Indianapolis. A review board then looks over the submission and can authorize a Silver Alert being launch. This process can take a few hours.

"What we're doing in the meantime is going out there, searching the area, the rural areas, the county roads, and those kind of things," Cottom said. "We alert all cars in the counties. We also notify surrounding counties and surrounding states too."

Some local senior community homes, like Springhill Village, care for residents who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The community's Executive Director told us those residents are under constant supervision.

"We try to keep it a little bit more structured, to keep their day busy, to decrease the wandering, to decrease the behaviors, the agitations, the anxiety," explained Bryanna Wegner, Springhill Village Executive Director. "They have a structured activity program that keeps them busy throughout the day to help decrease those symptons."

Springhill Village employs some staff members who are trained to care for these residents.

"They have twelve hours of dementia training depending on if it's a type of building that has a unit or not. But the state mandates that everybody has six hours upon hire and a minimum of three annually," added Wegner.

Bryanna says those who care for family members with the disease should give the member meaningful activities.

"Things like the meaningful activities. We always associate a wandering behavior typically with an unmet need. So do they need to go to the bathroom? Are they hungry? Are they thirsty? Things that maybe they can't verbalize and say but things that they can watch for at home," Wegner explained.

For more information on ways to care for a loved one who may suffer from Alzheimer's disease, visit http://www.alz.org/

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