silver alert… SILVER ALERT !!!!


This is one of the most difficult situations that caregivers must deal with…. a loved one has wandered away from home by walking… driving… or using public transportation.

AND what it boils down to is a decision – or non-decision – on the part of caregivers.  There are two options when someone is no longer capable of driving:

  1. Removing the car keys and car, as quickly as possible,  from the patient so (she) no longer has access to them.
  2. Or having the experience of knowing your loved one is lost “somewhere,”  may be in the hospital, may have caused an accident that seriously injured or killed someone?

This may sound harsh, but too many caregivers choose not to remove the keys and car from their Mom or Grandmother because of the anger, frustration and verbal abuse they anticipate receiving when they take this action.  It should be an easy decision to make…. it’s just very difficult to carry out.

The SILVER ALERT PROGRAM is a national program that posts information on highways, FB and news programs to alert the public about someone who is missing and usually has Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.  Family members say “Oh she doesn’t leave home at all while I am working 8 hours a day”  or “I don’t have to worry about her wandering… she’s never done it.”

Well, it does happen to 60% of dementia patients.

**This past Thursday there was a Silver Alert issued for a gentleman here in Rhode Island.  Luckily he was found the following day…  but he was in the state of Vermont.

**Today I saw another Silver Alert on FB.

**A few years ago a grandfather, grandmother and their grandchild left Virginia and were missing for several days.  They were found on a logging road in the state of Maine.

**I had a resident in one of the assisted living, memory-care communities I was directing who had wandered away from home on foot and crossed – on foot – 6 lanes of an interstate highway before the police could get to her to assist.  She was immediately brought to our community.

**I know another gentleman who walked out of a building at Thanksgiving time with no coat or jacket. He was picked up by the police about 2 miles away and taken to the hospital.  Unfortunately he could only tell them his first name.  It was four hours later before the family finally knew where he was and that he was safe.

YES it is a very difficult action for caregivers to take, especially when patients think that nothing is wrong with them. But it needs to be done.

Here are some things to look for as you deal with this issue. Does your loved one:

*Go through stop signs   *Have several unexplained dents or scratches on the car *Forget how to get home *Travel in the wrong lane when turning the corner *Go through red lights *No longer know her address *Think everyone else is the problem * Not recognize neighborhoods that should be familiar *Get confused with the difference between left and right * Travel the wrong way on one way streets ?????

Don’t wait for the doctor to make the decision for you.  Take action so your loved one or someone else won’t be injured.  You certainly don’t want a major law suit in your future.

What you can do…. use as many fiblets as needed to make it happen: * Blame the doctor for making the decision or DMV * Disconnect the battery or some other item under the hood so the car will not work * Take the correct key off the key chain and replace it with a look-a-like * Hide extra sets of keys * Remove the car from the driveway (sell it, give it to a relative, park it at a friend’s house) * Tell your loved one it is at the garage being repaired or in need of inspection – or they are waiting for parts * Say it has a flat tire and you need to buy new tires * In the winter months, pile snow around it.  Get creative.   Many times if it is out of site they will begin to stop asking about it.

However, don’t forget that if you are removing the car for your Mom’s safety and the safety of others, you also need to provide opportunities for her to still do many of the things she has always done,  That means family members or friends will need to provide transportation for shopping, medical/dental appointments, morning coffee and meeting friends, etc.

If you have power of attorney or guardianship for your loved one, you may also be legally liable if something happens.  Nothing about these dementia diseases is easy, but this is a must.  If you are uncomfortable riding in the car with your Mom or won’t let your children ride with her, then it is time.  Your Mom may not have caused an accident, but if she is in one and can not tell the police who she is, where she lives, is highly confused, etc., they may arrest her or take her to the police station until they can figure out who to call.  This kind of traumatic experience can be very, very upsetting when the patient doesn’t understand what is taking place.

When it is time… take the difficult step to remove the car keys and the car!!!

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  1. Doreen:

    In my opinion, the Registry of Motor Vehicles should be informed the day a Rhode Island resident has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. The DMV should set up some sort of mandatory testing program with Alzheimer’s patients. We cannot rely on family members to take the necessary steps to get dangerous ALZ patients off the road.

    David C.

  2. David,
    I totally agree. I believe country-wide that the physicians’ offices should be responsible for notifying DMV in their state. However, we do know that many people in the early stages are still very capable of driving and handling a moving motor vehicle. The question comes… when is it time for someone to no longer be driving? That’s when the family has to step in and look at the behaviors, some of which I mentioned in the blog. Thank for sharing your ideas David.

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