Friday, September 07, 2007

9/7/07 Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, Part IV

Other Solutions

States can also adopt legislation to implement missing adult alerts in certain situations. Currently, CO, GA, IL, MI, NM, and UT have initiatives in place to alert all LE and the public about an endangered missing adult.

On September 1st, 2007, Texas implemented a law to begin missing elderly adult alerts, called a “Silver Alert”. SB1315 will use the Amber Alert infrastructure with the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) determining the appropriate alerting avenues at state, regional or local levels. Texans over the age of 65 who have Alzheimer's, dementia, or who are mentally impaired in some way and reported missing, are eligible for the Silver Alert. Alerts for qualifying cases would then be sent to all levels of law enforcement agencies, TV, radio and newsprint media, and also show warnings on freeway message boards.

Project Jason recommends that every person in each family, regardless of age, have a completed Personal ID Kit ready in case someone you love were to become missing. It’s free to download on our website at It contains all of the physical description information and recent photos that will help LE in the search.

Taking Action

The National Alzheimer’s Association gives these tips for when an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient becomes missing:

The Family:

Five Steps for a Safe Return (Family)

1. Search the Immediate Area- Most people who wander by foot are found within 1/2 mile from where they were last seen. If not found within 5 minutes go to step two.
2. Call 911 - file missing person report
3. Call Safe Return
4. Contact family or friends to stay with you, stay calm, follow directions from police and Safe Return
5. Stay where you are- Have others continue to search, keep phone lines open so Police, Safe Return or the missing person can contact you.

Law Enforcement:

1. Begin search immediately
2. Place the missing person’s name in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and list them as a person with disabilities.

(Project Jason emphasizes also adding immediate involvement of SAR and local media.)

The Alzheimer's Association offers free training for law enforcement that covers wandering and other safety issues, plus tactics to use when encountering someone with dementia. The class also covers how Safe Return can help law enforcement reduce investigation time when someone with Alzheimer's is reported missing in the community.”

What can the general public do to help?

1) Volunteer for ground searches for the missing
2) Place posters of them, such as the 18 Wheel Angels posters made for Byron and Shirley that you’ll find on the Project Jason website
3) Support your local or area SAR teams, Alzheimer’s chapters, and missing person’s assistance organizations

If a person encounters an elderly individual in public who appears to have dementia or Alzheimer's, and they are behaving erratically, the best course of action is to use a non-threatening tone of voice. Maintain a calm environment and speak slowly and maintain a low-pitched voice so you do not give a false perception of anger or threat. Use short and familiar words. Ask “yes” or “no” questions. Do not assume the individual is hearing impaired unless otherwise indicated. You should attempt to remove the individual from noisy or stressful situations as excess stimuli may trigger a negative reaction which is exhibited by increased symptoms of restlessness, pacing, agitation and anxiety. Above all, you should remain calm, assuring and maintain good eye contact.

Robert Vaughn, Shirley’s son-in-law suggests: “If you have a family member with Alzheimer's, try to learn all you can about the disease and how it affects those who have it. If a person is not confined to 24 hour care, the walkaways can be very hard to prevent. Alzheimer's patients seem to show an amazing ability to hide, walk away or disappear. Things that could help in the home would be -- locks that prevent the patient from easily getting outdoors, and/or alarms on the doors that notify caregivers the patient has gone outside. Also a fenced-in yard could provide a place to walk, while decreasing the patient's ability to get away quickly.

Finally, extra help from extended family members, church volunteers, sitters, etc. could provide relief from the weariness that inevitably comes to the caregiver(s).”

Project Jason offers additional support and resources for families of the missing, including our newest benefit: free online counseling for family members.

Byron’s nephew, Lauris, gives advice to other families: “I recommend that families utilize anyone and any organization that is willing to help distribute information about your missing loved one. The more people who you can share your story and the more places you can show your loved one’s face, the better your chances are at recovery.

Prepare yourself both mentally and emotionally for the long haul. If you’re fortunate your loved one will be found alive and well inside a period of hours, days, or possibly weeks. If not, I think it’s important to understand that in addition to all the emotions your family will experience in the days and possibly years to come, your lives must continue. A situation like this can destroy an entire family from the inside out but we must always remember that our loved ones, whether they are recovered or not, will always be with us, and most importantly, remember that life is for the living.”

We’d like to thank the families of Byron Freeman and Shirley Hunt for their participation. We know it was not an easy thing for them to talk about the situation. Our thanks also go to the national and regional organizations which provided information for this article, and to the publishers of Through the Gears magazine, Target Media Partners, for helping in our cause.

About Project Jason

Project Jason is a 501 c 3 nonprofit organization, and was established on October 6, 2003. Named after the founders’ missing young adult son, Jason Jolkowski, this organization primarily focuses on case assessment, resources, and support for families of the missing. Kelly Jolkowski, Jason’s mother, handles interactions with family members, and has over 100 hours of professional training in various aspects of missing persons, including emotional support, DNA, support tools, databases and related matters, case management, media relations, and more. A complete listing of the services they offer can be found at

Contact Project Jason

We are the Voice for the Missing; speaking for those who are not among us but who are forever in our hearts.

Go to Part V


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