Prevent Silver Alerts: Save Lives

Wandering can happen at any time, and the wanderer could go anywhere. Wandering is especially dangerous when it involves elderly persons with cognitive impairments, such as dementia, amnesia, cerebral palsy, or any one of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease. Those with such diseases are at a higher risk of becoming lost due to wandering because they are unable to keep track of where they are or what they are doing.

Prevention Techniques and Tips Staff Can Use

Nursing home staff should take steps to prevent residents with cognitive impairments or wandering tendencies from engaging in wandering behavior by:

– Raising awareness about wandering behavior, the risks of wandering, and how to prevent such behavior among nursing home staff members;

– The identification of those nursing home residents who are at risk for wandering;

– Securing the nursing home premises so that residents cannot exit the facility unauthorized;

– Adequately monitoring residents during free time or unscheduled time; and

– Utilizing alert or alarm systems that detect when residents enter unauthorized areas of the facility or exit the facility through unsecured doors.

What Happens if A Resident Flees the Facility Anyway?

Whether the home had adequate prevention protocols in place if a resident does escape a nursing home facility, what can the nursing home or the wanderer’s family and loved ones do? The first step is to contact local authorities, such as the police. It is important to provide authorities with information that will be helpful in locating the missing person quickly. For example, it is important to provide authorities with an up-to-date photo of the missing resident, and any available identification information. Some older people at risk of wandering are equipped with tracking bracelets. Providing the radio frequency information for a resident’s RFID bracelet could be very helpful during a search.

Also, providing information about the missing person’s favorite places outside of the nursing home could be useful. At first, it may seem counter-intuitive that an elderly person who lacks cognitive competence would be able to navigate to a familiar place after wandering away from a care center. However, while these individuals may not be able to purposefully remember where their favorite diner is located, for example, searchers might ultimately discover the lost person somewhere he or she likes to be.

The authorities might decide that it would be helpful to utilize a public notification system for finding the missing resident. They might issue a silver alert.

What is a Silver Alert?

You may have heard of Amber alerts: the nationwide notifications disseminated to the general public in an effort to locate a missing or kidnapped child. Did you know though that there is a similar alert system in place for locating senior citizens who have gone missing due to wandering or eloping behavior? Silver alerts are used for locating older individuals, as amber alerts are used for locating children.

When a resident wanders away from a nursing home or long-term care facility, it is likely an indication that there is some sort of neglect happening at the home. Please reach out to the The Rooth Law Firm online or by calling (847) 869-9100, if you are concerned about the care your loved one is receiving at his or her nursing home.


Linda, Silver Alerts, NC Missing Persons Organization, March 28, 2014

Photo Credit: stevohv via Compfight cc