News Column

National Notification System Sought to ID Wandering Seniors

December 22, 2010

Tom Henry

Judith Bolinsky was one of the lucky ones.

The 75-year-old Perrysburg resident, who has Alzheimer's disease, was found in good health along the Ohio Turnpike at 5 a.m. Tuesday by a trooper from the Ohio Highway Patrol, five hours after she was reported missing and 10 hours after she was last seen driving a car near Pemberville, Ohio, about 7 p.m. Monday.

She's not alone.

According to the national Alzheimer's Association, more than 60 percent of people with some form of dementia will wander and, if not found within 24 hours, about half of those who do are eventually found seriously injured or dead.

It's becoming more of a concern nationally as America ages and more people from its post-World War II Baby Boom generation -- the largest segment of the nation's population -- move into their twilight years.

In Dec. 8 testimony before the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging, Assisted Living Federation of America Chief Executive Officer and President Richard Grimes called on Congress to pass the National Silver Alert Act, a bill for seniors which resembles the Amber Alert system for missing youths.

The act would create a national notification system for identifying and locating seniors with Alzheimer's prone to wandering off.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. It afflicts more than 5 million Americans.

Mr. Grimes also called for the adoption of a bill that would create a federal office for Alzheimer's treatment and prevention efforts.

"Caring for seniors with memory loss and supporting their families are as important as finding a cure," he said.

According to his testimony, the United States has 10 million adults in need of long-term care. By 2020, that figure is expected to be 15 million.

Scientists estimate more than 14 million Americans will get Alzheimer's in the next 40 years and that half of all people who reach age 85 will show signs of it, according to Mr. Grimes.

The Alzheimer's Association encourages people at risk of wandering to be enrolled in its MedicAlert + Alzheimer's Association Safe Return program, which helps identify and return missing adults. More information is at alz.org.



Source: Copyright (c) 2010, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio